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Before yesterdaySocialist Workers Party

SOCIALIST WORKERS TAKE A NEW DIRECTION

By SW Editor

It also decided that its primary vehicle for communication will be the launch a major new website that is geared to the growing numbers of people who seek alternatives to capitalism.

At a subsequent date, the network will spin off a print addition from this website.

The Socialist Workers Network will also seek to produce high quality Marxist literature that is written in the language of the 21st century and attractive to a new generation of anti-capitalists.

The change of direction follows several months of discussion among members.

It follows logically from the growing success of People Before Profit—a 32 county socialist organisation that Socialist Worker helped found—which has been highly successful in winning adherents all around Ireland.

The change in name to Socialist Workers Network reflects a decision to focus on building People Before Profit, and within that to win and educate as many members as possible in revolutionary socialist politics.

To that end, the Socialist Workers Network will be operating as a component part of People Before Profit and, more occasionally, as an independent external force.

We are committed to working with others to build the widest possible support for socialist politics in Ireland, as part of the fight to uproot the capitalist system both here and internationally.

Save Our Health Service

By SW Editor

Shaun Harkin, People Before Profit representative in Derry

Decades of underinvestment are overwhelming health care staff.and leading to massive waiting time.  Patient care is at risk and frontline staff in many departments are at breaking point. Lack of planning and investment has created a massive shortage of nurses and a crisis in GP services.

Over the holiday period, Antrim Area Hospital was forced to use volunteer St John Ambulance workers. Janice Smyth, the NI Director of the Royal College of Nursing union, described this as:

“An unprecedented step and it is another sign our health and social care system is in crisis. We don’t have enough nursing staff.

“This is heading only in one direction and in the absence of a workforce plan this is highly dangerous. Once broken, it is not easily fixed.”

Nurses and hospital support staff have endured years of wage freezes and an overall reduction in pay with rising inflation and costs.

Outsourcing means that large numbers of domicillary care workers are paid not much more than the minimum wage, forcing them to work up to 60 hours a week. Mental health services are inadequate and set to come under further strain following the introduction of Universal Credit, PIP and benefit cuts.

The SDLP and others have called for the restoration of the Stormont Assembly to solve the health funding crisis. However, the present health crisis is a direct consequence of the policies emanating from Stormont and Westminster over the last decade.

Stormont negotiations must involve a commitment to end the NHS funding crisis.

Funding

This must also include ending Stormont plans to reduce hundreds of millions in available funding by cutting taxes on hugely profitable corporations.

Before Stormont collapsed Sinn Fein’s then Minister for Health, Michelle O’Neill, unveiled a 10 year plan to ‘transform’ health and social care delivery in the North based on proposals in the Bengoa Report. Without doubt, health and social care delivery can be modernised and improved, however, many worry the report includes plans to cut back services and care provision.

To deal with the present crisis the health service needs emergency funding and a long-term commitment to increase funding.

However, the Tories, propped up by the DUP, are intent on further starving the NHS of funding to create a two-tier health system of the ‘haves and the haves not’.

Funding reductions have also laid the basis for the further privatisation of health care delivery. Stormont parties accommodated and encouraged privatisation of health care in the North.

The availability of funding is not the problem – and corporations and super-rich who stash their wealth in global tax havens can see their taxes raised to fund decent public services.

Austerity is a political choice, driven by neoliberal ideology, with the goal of opening up public services to market privatisation and profiteering.

The future of all public services in the North are at stake.

Budget projections for health and social care, education and transportation all include massive cuts.

To save our services austerity and the drive towards privatisation must be halted.

Broad based mobilisations and trade union action are key to reversing cuts and demanding properly funded services that put patient care and workers’ rights first.

Scrap the Tory Welfare Reforms

By SW Editor

Gavin Campbell, East Derry People Before Profit

Despite massive opposition, in 2015 the former Sinn Fein/DUP Executive transferred devolved powers from Stormont back to Westminster to allow the Tory government to implement welfare reforms here.

Financial mitigations were agreed to protect the most vulnerable but it’s already clear they don’t go anywhere near far enough.

The consequence is that more misery will be heaped on working class communities already suffering high levels of deprivation and marginalisation.

The transition of people from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) has been a total disaster.

Thousands have seen their PIP applications rejected on spurious grounds by medical assessors in privately run companies.

The roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) is being staggered geographically across the north. UC replaces Income Support, Income Based Jobseekers Allowance, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.

Transition

During the transition onto Universal Credit people are left without any financial support for five weeks – but this can be much longer if there are any difficulties with a claim.

The Tories promoted UC as a way help people get back into work and ‘to make work pay’ but it’s clear the point is cut spending on benefits.

The attack on benefits is entirely ideological with the goal of destroying the social safety net.

There’s a widespread notion UC and benefit cuts will only impact those who are out of work.

However, many working people who receive any kind of benefits will be directly impacted.

For example, low-paid workers will be required to work more hours as a condition of receiving UC.

Workers who are in insecure work, low-pay or who have difficulties accessing childcare will be impacted.

People living with disabilities will be among the hardest hit by welfare reforms.

There is already much evidence of deaths, including suicides, as a result of benefits sanctions in England where welfare reform has already been implemented. As a result of the cuts food banks have been overwhelmed, as have welfare advice centres attempting to help people navigate changes and stay financially afloat.

A broad joined-up campaign is desperately needed to protect people from the worst aspects of benefit cuts and to scrap welfare reform policies hurting the most vulnerable and working poor.

Free the Children – Free Palestine – Boycott Israel

By SW Editor
Pic: Ahed Tamimi resisting arrest of her brother

Dave O’Farrell

The move has been met by widespread protest, both within Palestine and internationally. In fact despite the Zionist state’s apparent ability to act with impunity it is coming under ever more pressure.

In Palestine the focus has shifted from peace talks to struggle with calls for, another Intifada or uprising.

International resistance to their racist and apartheid policies has only increased. At the UN 151 states voted not to recognise Trumps decision.

The global campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is having a real effect. This can be seen in the increasingly drastic moves by the Israeli government to attack BDS activists. Most recently this has been revealed in the decision to ban activists with a number of groups who support the Palestinian struggle from entering Israel.

Among the groups banned was the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC). All those who support the Palestinian cause should react to this like the IPSC have and regard it as a “badge of honour”

International boycott campaigns have worked in the past, as with Apartheid South Africa, and Israel is clearly feeling the pressure.

The recent moves by the Trump administration have inadvertently shown the weakness of the apartheid Israeli state to the world. At the same time it has also added the final nail to the notion of a “two state” solution.

Coming after years of illegal settlement building this move has shown that supporters of the Israeli state have no interest in any form of viable Palestinian state.

The real nature of the Israeli state has been further exposed recently by the arrest and detention of 16 year old young Palestinian Ahed Tamimi. Ahed’s ‘crime’ was to slap the face of an Israeli soldier after her 14 year old cousin had been shot in the head and maimed by a rubber bullet.

Ahed Tamimi faces up to 10 years in jail for this act of resistance. But this has only served to spark further protests round the world and to highlight the plight of the many Palestinian children incarcerated in Israeli prisons

For those who support the Palestinian people now is the time to redouble our efforts and see the racist and apartheid state of Israel, like the apartheid state of South Africa before it, consigned to history.

Me Too and Repeal: Woman Rise up!

By SW Editor

Becca Bor

Last January, 4 million people filled the streets of the US, and countries around the world, to protest Trump generally, and women’s oppression specifically.

From the Women’s March last year to today, we have seen a massive shift in opinion in Ireland for progressive change to abortion laws and a global #metoo movement that has begun to shine a light on sexual assault and harassment.

This year, organisers across the US were stunned that so many people came out – again – for the Women’s march in January.

Major liberal women’s organisations who have been reluctant to call for large-scale mobilisations became, nonetheless, participants..

Though smaller than last year, this year’s demonstrations saw Palestine solidarity activists including demands for Ahed Tamini and all other political prisoners to be freed; immigrant rights activists highlighted the draconian deportations of undocumented people; indigenous rights activists highlighted the disappeared and murdered indigenous women; black lives matter and trans rights activists put a spotlight on the genocidal rates of murder of black trans women, and so many more.

Shaken

The #metoo movement has shaken the establishment across the US, UK and Ireland.

The allegations against Harvey Weinstein, one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, and a huge Democratic Party political donor, opened the floodgate of women being believed.

Thousands of facebook feeds and twitter handles were filled with #metoo stories.

It was like a communal coming out of women standing together to share their stories of abuse, harassment and oppressive experiences.

The powerful display of solidarity at the Golden Globes, including actors taking women’s rights activists as their plus one, and addressing the struggle of working class women in their speeches is a reflection of a societal shift around questions of feminism and women’s equality.

From Hollywood, to Westminster, to Congress, to gymnastics, powerful men have been charged, dismissed, forced to resign or convicted.

Importantly, the institutions that created conditions for sexual harassment and assault to thrive, refused to believe women, covered up allegations and protected predators, are also under fire.

However, powerful institutions love nothing more than forcing the “bad apple” to fall to protect themselves and their power.

The #metoo movement represents a change in attitude and confidence of women –being able to talk about experiences and being believed.

This movement is forcing conversations and a real reckoning of how sexism functions in our society.

Women’s near universal experience of sexual harassment and the process of millions of women engaging in a collective sharing of their experiences and many feeling believed for the first time has had a huge ideological impact on women, men and society in general.

Conversation

Importantly, it has also begun a conversation about gender roles, interpersonal relationships, and women’s oppression more generally in workplaces, in families and in society at large;.

This ideological shift has the opportunity to transform into a movement that can win material gains for women. Many of the high profile allegations this year have been sexual assaults and harassment experienced at work.

This opens up the possibility for union members across these islands to demand workplace equality, both in terms stricter guidelines and procedures to end workplace sexual harassment and abuses of power and for equal pay.

The sea of protesters in Dublin this past year demanding abortion rights, as well as the biggest ever march for choice in Belfast, has forced the state to reckon with a growing movement for choice.

The Repeal the 8th campaign has revealed the massive shift in attitudes across Ireland, with the most recent poll showing the majority of people in favour of repeal, and the majority of politicians slowly – far too slowly – coming over to the side of liberalization of abortion law.

The pro-choice movement is shouting out the need for the state to legally allow women to have bodily autonomy and control, which is the same demand as the #metoo movement.

Women’s bodies will always be controlled and abused by others in society if it is legal for the state to control women’s bodies.

Sentiment and public opinion is changing rapidly because there has been a vibrant and growing movement of women and their supporters demanding abortion rights, demanding an end to sexual harassment and demanding a society where women have legal, economic and social equality.

Put the Planet before Profit: Stop fossil fuel exploration off Ireland’s shores

By SW Editor

 

 Linda Kehoe

While the USA under Trump withdraws from the Paris agreement and opens its shores to fossil fuel exploration in wanton disregard for the environment and future generations, three countries have paved the way in the right direction. Costa Rica, France and Belize will no longer allow fossil fuel exploration and PBP want Ireland to be next on this list.

On February 7th Brid Smith TD will introduce The Climate Emergency Measures Bill in the Dáil: a bill that if passed will stop any further exploration for oil, coal or gas in Ireland, and go a long way towards promoting Ireland as an environmentally conscious and responsible nation.

Thanks to successive Fianna Fail and Fine Gael led governments Ireland is not on track to reach our agreed target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050. Through poor transport, agriculture and energy policies we are instead increasing our emissions year-on-year. The government is awash with contradictions; continuing to burn coal and peat when studies have shown that we could transition to a system of 100% renewable energy without increasing the production costs. Banning fracking onshore (after huge public pressure and civic movements) but still allowing it a few hundred metres offshore. Passing this bill will stop that hypocrisy.

The seismic surveys used to find fossil fuels reserves offshore interfere with whales and dolphins ability to echolocate and devastate zooplankton levels (key species in the ocean food chain). When found the fuels have to be extracted, transported and refined for sale and use. Each step in the process damages the environment further, and then we burn the products in our cars and factories. Oil drilling is risky, unsustainable and dirty and thus directly contradicts the SEAI strategy which “envisions an Ireland where energy is sustainable, secure and clean”

At current, unsustainably-high usage levels the world’s known fossil fuel reserves will last another 50 years or so, but to prevent disasterous climate change experts say that 80% of this needs to remain in the ground. We committed to reduce our usage by 80% in the next 30years. Growth in the fossil fuel sector won’t provide much State revenue (thanks again to our successive governments), won’t provide stable or sustainable jobs and isn’t favoured by the public ( proven by the anti-fracking lobby groups). It will damage our ecosystems, tourism, fish stocks and health and throw us miles wide of our emissions targets. Exploring our oceans for more reserves simply doesnt make sense.

Unless of course, you are looking for a quick profit. Oil prices are now at their highest for 3 years and greedy corporations want to cash in. Globally drillers have stepped up their output, and here in Ireland 90% of companies in the sector are “optimistic of finding deposits to profitably extract”.

They are waiting eagerly for the government to grant the next round of licences to explore our seabed. Providence Resources got a swathe of these licenses over the last few years; some they acted on (and failed to find oil) and some they sold for profit to French Oil giant Total. When, not if,  these companies do find large reserves, their exploitation will gaurantee we overshoot our national quota of 1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions. It will make them a fortune, and cost us the earth.

Stop the hypocrisy, Stop their reckless endangerment of our environment, Support the Climate Emergency Measures Bill on the 7th!

IS RACISM ON THE RISE?

By SW Editor
Pic: Galway Against Racism Network march against Direct Provision

Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin

Although the worst of the hatred has been confined to social media, we are also beginning to see a small number of racists operating out in the open.

Last month, Councillor Donal Grady led a protest against a proposed new Direct Provision centre in Killarney under the slogan “Our Own Must Come First”. Although less than 30 people attended the demonstration, it received nationwide coverage in the media. This is in s contrast to the many anti-racist actions over the last number of years that have been largely ignored. Only when hundreds of people mobilise, as they did against Direct Provision in Galway on 20 Januar, is there any media coverage.

The demonstration in Killarney tried to use the housing crisis to launch a vicious attack on the most vulnerable people in society. As far as we know, this is the first housing protest Donal Grady has ever organised. A look through his website reveals that the last motion he put to Killarney Town Council that had anything to do with providing affordable housing was back in April 2013, when he put forward the tame motion, “That we Killarney Town Council would urgently examine the requirements for the RAS Scheme as it seems that the rule of taking applicants off the housing list is unfair and could be illegal.”

Revealing

This is revealing. The severity of the housing crisis has created huge anger that people like Grady are attempting to redirect towards asylum seekers and refugees. This is done to cover up for their own failure to provide affordable public housing to people who are in desperate need of it. Grady’s action chime with the wider divide and rule strategy of the national government.

Last year both Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney dealt with a question about Direct Provision by connecting the system to housing, with Coveney saying that a change in the system would put “more pressure” on him as housing minister.

Varadkar likewise stated thatthere actually are people who have status, who’ve been given leave to remain, who’ve been given refugee status, but are still living in Direct Provision because there is no housing available for them.”

This is an effort to pit homeless people against asylum seekers.

The top brass of Fine Gael do not use outright racist language, but these kinds of statements, cloaked in the language of concern, are an attempt to spread the idea that there are limited resources in Ireland and that helping asylum seekers will hit the homeless..

We need only look at the government’s housing policies to see that they have no intention of alleviating the suffering of ordinary people.

With public land being sold off to private developers, NAMA buildings being sold at slashed prices to the wealthy, sky-rocketing rents and tens of thousands of houses lying empty all over the country, the government’s intentions are clear. They will continue to look after landlords and developers to the cost of everybody else.

The “family hubs” touted by Eoghan Murphy and Simon Coveney  demonstrate that homeless families have much more in common with asylum seekers stuck in Direct Provision than they do with the wealthy elites of this country.

Placing the blame for the problems in our society on asylum seekers is  misguided and dangerous. If we look at the major crises in Ireland at the moment – housing, healthcare, the denial of women’s bodily autonomy, mental health – it is often the case that asylum seekers are the worst affected.

As the list of horror stories to do with lack of access to healthcare continues to grow, it emerged last week that a Nigerian asylum seeker had to resort to prostitution to pay for her son’s treatment for a severe form of sickle cell disease.

While women in Ireland are forced to travel to the UK to access abortions, there are women who cannot even do this – those who cannot afford to travel, and those who are in Direct Provision.

As we experience a mental health crisis among the general population, depression, anxiety and PTSD are at extraordinarily high levels among those in Direct Provision.

The consequences of this were borne out in the most tragic fashion in August 2016, when a Korean woman, You Jung Han, committed suicide in a direct provision centre.

Suffering

The vast levels of suffering being experienced by people in Ireland are not caused by the most powerless people in society, but by a system that prioritises  profits of the few at the expense of the many. Fine Gael, propped up by Fianna Fáil, will use every possible tactic to divide us and direct our anger away from themselves and their class.

Falling for their lies will weaken us in every single struggle we seek to undertake.

We must therefore build solidarity between all oppressed people in order to take them on.

Despite the surge of racism, there have also been many positive actions on this front of late. A petition against Donal Grady’s protest launched by five O’Donohue sisters from Barraduff in Kerry has amassed over 1,500 signatures so far.

The launch of a United Against Racism activist group in Kerry demonstrates that people there are taking up the fight against xenophobia. A recent documentary on the Syrian refugees who were resettled in Ballaghadereen showed how these people have been accepted into the community and have injected their own energy and joy into the town.

A packed United Against Racism evening with Ibrahim Halawa in December saw People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny read out a letter of solidarity from Vera Twomey to Ibrahim. Racists had attempted to use the hashtag #BringAvaHome to suggest that we ought to be helping “real” Irish people, i.e. white Irish people. Vera’s letter confronted this racism and welcomed Ibrahim home.

Most significantly, demonstrations against Direct Provision in Dublin and Galway in November and January saw hundreds of people come out to demand equal rights for asylum seekers and an end to deportations.

This is solidarity we need to confront the racism in our society and to help us build for a better world. The elites  will look after their own.

We must therefore do likewise, and look after our own: workers, the homeless, asylum seekers, travellers, LGBT+ people, pensioners, and anybody who faces the brutality of this state.

NO TO PESCO – HOMES NOT BOMBS

By SW Editor

Even the name is designed to hide what it is really about. PESCO really means an EU army or perhaps ‘Towards an EU Army’.

The top Eurocrats like EU Commission president Jean Claude Juncker have long wanted an EU army. In March 2015 he said that “a common European army would convey a clear message to Russia that we are serious about defending our European values”.

But Ireland was not under any obligation, under Lisbon or any other treaty, to sign up to this.

The Irish Government did this of its own volition because Veradkar and co  aspire to being junior partners of European and US imperialism as it shown by their allowing the US military to use Shannon with impunity.

So why the hurry and the attempt to avoid publicity?

So unlike measures they are proud of which they  shout from the roof tops and even announce several times over or measures about which they are reluctant which get kicked down the road and delayed for as long as possible.

Coffin

There are two reasons . The first is that signing up to PESCO is yet another nail in the coffin of Irish neutrality and they know that the tradition of neutrality is favoured and valued by the substantial majority of the Irish people. In a RedC poll in February 2016, 57 per cent of the people supported enshrining neutrality in the Constitution.

The second is the simple fact that PESCO will cost a lot of money.

At the moment Ireland’s military spending is the lowest in the EU but PESCO commits Ireland to increasing its military  budget  from an annual €885 million to the region of €3 billion.

Severe

At a time when Ireland faces no serious threat from any foreign power and is extremely unlikely to do so in the foreseeable future – unless Trump decides to invade Europe via Ireland(!) – but has a severe housing crisis, a severe health crisis, a severe child poverty crisis this is an obvious waste of money and hardly likely to be popular.

Three conclusions stand out:

When it suits them our Government can act very quickly indeed and, expect for spin purposes, they don’t care about democracy.

When it suits them there’s always plenty of money available, especially for war.

Our rulers, for all their ‘liberal’ talk, share the imperial and warlike ambitions of the EU, NATO and the US.

YES to Repeal – Seize the time!

By SW Editor
Pic: Brid Smith TD and People Before Profit Councillors marching for Repeal

Brid Smith , People Before Profit TD

I don’t think that the whole thing was a revelation to him. In 2002, the failed Twenty-Fifth Amendment, which attempted to exclude the risk of suicide as a grounds for abortion, was led by Micheál Martin as the then Minister for Health.

Nor is it very likely that he had a Damascus-type conversion having read the Oireachtas committee report.

No, most likely he made a calculated guess.  Fianna Fail would have to look to the future. It would have to appeal to young people, to more women, to an urban vote.

That calculated guess may even have been made in consultation with Varadkar, who knows.

In any event, he reckoned that things could not go on as before. At a stroke, he gave a boost to the Repeal campaign. That can only be good for everyone who wants to see abortion legalized in this country.

Risks

Having just about survived the economic crisis and their austerity policies, the mainstream centre now face another political upheaval.

The Irish ruling class has historically relied on the Catholic Church.

To go against its teachings now represents a huge shift. Fine Gael’s new-found ‘liberal’ stance represents an attempt to manage change, renew its urban and youth support and, it hopes, to marginalise the radical activists and the left.

Its strategy relies on running the referendum campaign in a top-down, passive way. ‘Soft messaging’, fronted by experts in law and medicine, and low-key campaigning is how it hopes to win.

It is a risky strategy. As Martin’s ‘conversion’ shows, it will cause significant splits and ructions within the parties of the ruling class.

Having right-wing parties on our side also carries risks.  Fine Gael has donned its liberal cloak and some of its TDs identify with repeal.

But this may backfire. Working-class communities remember austerity, they experience the run- down public services; they see how the rich, under FG, are not taxed in this country.

The anti-choicers have understood poverty and homelessness has created wide resentment against the elites in Irish society.

Their hiring of a PR man from the British Brexit campaign is an indication that they will attempt to tap into this.

Mass
campaign

That’s why we need to build a massive YES campaign with a genuine presence everywhere. People Before Profit, already widely known for standing up against austerity and the water charges,sees that working-class communities care very much about so called ‘social issues’. We saw a high yes vote in working class areas in the Marriage Equality referendum.

People Before Profit have always had a pro-choice position. Lots of young people are fed up with the hypocrisy and conservatism of the Irish state. They care about the right to take abortion pills legally and with medical back-up. Its seems natural to them that abortion is all about choice.Already the large pro-choice marches have shown that there are lots of young women and men who will not be dictated to any longer.

The referendum is about the right of an individual to choose abortion. But it is also about the provisions of services and education that makes that choice open to everyone.

A woman could always have an abortion in this country if she could afford the €1400 or so it costs for a plane ticket and a British clinic. But when a woman is poor, a worker who cannot take time off, or an asylum seeker living in direct provision who cannot leave the country, things are not so easy.

That why we need full access to abortion – and to contraception and to full medical services – to make bodily autonomy a reality.

Abortion pills need to be decriminalized and provided free with proper medical supervision.In Northern Ireland three women have been arrested and charged for using or procuring the abortion pill.. That has to change.

At
Stake

It is very much my hope that if we get the eighth amendment out of the Constitution and begin to establish legal safe abortion in this part of the country, it will cross the Border. The North should have had it long before us under the 1968 Abortion Act in Britain.

Much is at stake in this referendum. If it wins, the door is open to take on the Catholic church in hospitals and schools, to seek full and non-judgmental sex education in schools, to demand that free contraception be made available.

People Before Profit activists are at the centre of the repeal movement. Only by being visible in the areas, with public meetings, stalls, going door to door reaching out to people will the mass campaignbe built. And that’s what we need to win.

 

Why does the 8th Amendment need to be repealed?

Because the teaching of one religion has no place in a constitution

Because it forces Irish women to access abortion facilities in secret and in shame

Because the 8th Amendment means that pregnant women in the Irish health care system do not receive the full range of health care available to women in other countries

Because we need legal medical support systems for women who face unwanted pregnancies

12 Irish women a day travel to the UK for abortions.Numbers of those accessing abortion pills in Ireland are impossible to know. But we do know that in June 2016, 78 abortion pills were seized in just 1 week.

A young woman from Dublin Bay North describes what she went through:

“A year ago, when I was experiencing a crisis pregnancy, I felt very alone. I remember one key moment was on the way over to Manchester at Dublin airport, I saw a much younger girl than me, on her own and in obvious distress, who I later saw again on the plane to Manchester. I guessed that she was doing the same as me, although she had no one with her. It started to dawn on me that I would have to take a stand and do all I could to get the 8th amendment out of the constitution”

A sick society: How the system fuels the mental health crisis

By SW Editor

Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin

Ireland also has the fourth highest rate of teenage suicide in the EU, as reported by Building the Future, who state that 1 in 10,000 Irish 15-19-year-olds will die by suicide.

The brutal austerity measures imposed by the Fine Gael-led government have fueled the desperation people are feeling around the country.

The poorest areas in the country are the worst affected, with suicide rates in the most deprived 20% of areas shown to be twice as high as in the richest 20%. Risk of homelessness, cuts to services, unemployment and low-paid precarious employment are all factors that contribute to mental distress and lead some people to take their own lives.

But the government has clearly decided to abandon entire communities to their fate.

It is not just the poorest in society who suffer from mental strain, of course. Many people who bought houses before the 2008 financial crash are now in mortgage arrears and are at risk of eviction.

Data from the Irish Mortgage Holders Association showed that 31% of people who were in arrears had recently had suicidal thoughts and 22% of these had active plans to commit suicide.

The logic of the system is such that the profits of the banks and landlords are considered untouchable, even at the cost of human lives.

There has also been a huge increase in the strain placed on public service and white-collar workers, as the state cuts services and private businesses attempt to push workers to their absolute limits.

From nurses being run off their feet for 13-hour shifts to private sector pay and pension cuts, the assault on workers has been vicious.

Increasing

While increasing numbers of people are driven to despair by the system, the government has done nothing to alleviate their mental suffering.

Like the rest of the public health system, mental health is chronically underfunded.

The government attempted to pull the wool over the eyes of the public last year, stating that they were providing an additional €35 million for mental health services as part of their Vision for Change policy.

However, €20 million of this was, in fact, announced in 2016, and the actual increase only amounted to €15 million.

This follows on from the €12 million earmarked for mental health that was allocated to other areas of the health service in 2016.

The results of this are born out in cuts to acute psychiatric beds, an over-reliance on medication as a front-line treatment, and patients who try to access psychological therapies being left waiting 6 months or more to access treatment.

Fine Gael’s policies are a double assault on mental health in Ireland.

Their austerity measures and attacks on workers drive vast numbers people into desperation, and when these people seek help through the health system, there is no help there for them.

Our response must also be a double-pronged. In the short term we must fight for a massive increase in spending on mental health services so that those who require help are not left to suffer alone.

Our long term goal must be to tackle the root causes of mental distress by fighting to create a socialist society that looks after the needs of everybody who lives in it, and allows them to develop to their fullest potential.

Fighting for Decent Health Care

By SW Editor

 SW: What inspired you to get involved in a health campaign?

As a health care worker I always had an interest in health and caring for people, and when you see what has become of the health service during the years of austerity and the move towards private health care, and the effects it is having on the people we care for; that’s what initially inspired me to get involved in a health campaign. The fact I joined the health  service to care and help people and now this is being utilised to increase profits is a major concern to me.

SW: What do you think of the government review of hospital bed capacity recommendations for 9000 more beds?

The recent capacity recommendations of 9000 beds has come as no surprise. The review only confirms what doctors and medical staff have been continuously saying; the reality is that the Irish health service only has 2.8 beds per 1000 people where the OECD average is 4.3 per 1,000. We continually hear more beds isn’t the answer that it’s an efficiency problem, but with figures for admissions increasing with over 99,000 people waiting to be admitted to a hospital bed in 2017, efficiency is clearly not the issue.

SW: What role do you think the health unions could play in supporting the campaign?

The health unions are a massive asset to the campaign; this is the first time we have seen all health unions, health workers, patients and political activists coming together on a common platform to build a campaign to seek meaningful reform in our health service. They have the experience and knowledge representing all grades of staff on the frontlines.


 SW: Staffing shortages and burnout seem common today; what can the campaign do to address those issues?

The Still Waiting campaign is calling for five key objectives to improve the health service, which include increase bed capacity, increase frontline staff, a not for profit home help service, restoration of services, and move towards a national health service. Health workers want to be able to care for the service users to the best of their ability and we believe we have some of the best staff any health service could want. We now need to be able to provide the services and facilities to reflect this. The campaign will also be a beacon of hope to those who are leaving the service as it will send a strong message that it can’t and won’t continue

 SW: Slaintecare is calling for an end to private medicine in public hospitals and an increase in beds and staff; does the campaign support it and do you have any concerns about slaintecare?

We do support the Slaintecare document as it offers a direction towards a single tier health system. However, we would have major concerns about how the government plans to implement it. The fear is the government will try to outsource some of the proposals to the private sector similar to the private home help providers. Although it outlines a single tier health care system , the government will use fiscal limits as an excuse to continue to push private providers in the community setting. We have seen the government’s inability to implement other documents such as the vision for change document. Therefore we need a campaign to hold the government accountable as we don’t want to be in a situation in 10 years’ time that only 40% of the document is implemented and the fundamental point of a single tier health system is not achieved.

 SW:What would you like people to do to support the Still Waiting campaign?

We are currently building the campaign with our first national conference in Liberty Hall on January 27thalongside the major health unions, we hope to follow this with regional meetings and if people want to keep up to date with the campaign, they can email us at stillwaitingireland@gmail.com. We also want all health campaigns to join together for a national demonstration in the near future and we’d ask people to help us build a massive civic health movement in Ireland. 

Socialism and Trans Rights

By John Molyneux

Actually it relates to two very fundamental socialist principles. The first is opposition to all forms of oppression in society.

Our goal is a society of real equality in which all oppression of human beings by other human beings is ended. We believe that it is the struggle of the working class that is the key to achieving such a society but for socialists the concept of ‘the working class’ does not mean the old stereotype of white straight male factory workers.

The working class is, and in fact always has been, international, multicultural, able-bodied . disabled, female, male, straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Socialists stand for working class unity because without it we cannot defeat capitalism but working class unity can only be achieved on the basis of combating all types of discrimination, bigotry, prejudice and oppression that divide people.

And this doesn’t mean just getting rid of these things in the socialist society of the future; it means actively fighting against them now – in workplaces, in public life, in unions, in the workers movement and so on.

Middle class

Nor is socialist opposition to oppression restricted to members of the working class. If middle class or even ruling class women or people of colour are discriminated against then this reinforces those divisions in the society as a whole, so socialists must oppose this.

Now there is no doubt that, like women, people of colour and gay people and a number of other categories, transgender people suffer major oppression.  One manifestation of this is the shocking rate of violence and murder against trans people. In the USA, which is one of the few countries with even vaguely accurate reporting,  the number of trans murder victims rose from 20 in 2015 to 28 in both 2016 and 2017 And, because of the way different oppressions intersect and reinforce each other, it is transgender women of colour who are most affected.

But of course murder is only the tip of an iceberg of physical, social and psychological violence and exclusion which results in a hugely disproportionate suicide rate among trans people.

For this reason socialists welcome the fact that transgender people are organising and more and more openly fighting for their rights and we stand unequivocally with them in this.

The second socialist principle involved is that when it comes to matters of sexuality and gender socialists stand for the maximum freedom which doesn’t harm or coerce others.

Harm

Of course some expressions of sexuality – sexual harassment, rape, paedophilia for example – can involve terrible harm to others and must therefore be condemned and illegal. But an individual’s decision to transition, motivated by their desire to affirm their gender identity does not inflict harm on others. It’s an important part of their self-expression.

Of course there may be some, including family members, who may feel dismayed or even wounded by such transitions but that is mainly because of their own and society’s ingrained prejudice.

Socialists do not accept that biology is destiny or that human potentialities and development should be confined and limited by their biological inheritance. Indeed there is a sense in which the whole history of humanity from the first making of stone tools through to modern science, industry, transport and medicine is a progressive overcoming of the limitations imposed on human beings by ‘natural’ biology.

‘Naturally’, of course, we can neither fly nor travel by train nor use telephones and naturally a high proportion of us die infancy.

Disagree

Inevitably, as with most issues, there are people who disagree. Obviously there will be conservatives and reactionaries who yearn for the days when – they imagine – everyone knew their place and stayed in the designated blue and pink box, perhaps along with their assigned position upstairs or downstairs or in the convent.

But there are also some feminists who feel threatened by trans rights. This is partly because some feminists hold that the division between men and women is the fundamental division in history and society and that it derives from essential and unchanging features of male and female nature, They may see men, all men, and inevitably oppressors of all women.

This in turn leads them to be suspicious of trans women as not ‘real’ women and fear that they may threaten what they see as ‘women’s spaces’.

Socialists, especially socialist feminists, should try to persuade them they are mistaken on both counts. The experience of Ireland is useful here because we have a Gender Recognition Act with self identification and declaration of gender which has operated since 2015 without any damage to women’s rights or self organisation.

In short we all need, and socialists argue for, a movement based on inclusion not exclusion, in which we all fight for all the exploited and oppressed.

The North needs Social Housing too

By SW Editor

Access to housing was a key demand of the civil rights movement in the North during the 1960s leading to the creation of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive in 1971.

 Prior to the founding of the NIHE, housing provision was decided upon by local councils. 

This resulted in widespread discrimation of Catholics in housing allocation, but also in housing provision more generally, by the Unionists holding political control of councils and the Stormont government.

Eamonn McCann says the creation of the housing executive “was one of the great achievements of the civil rights movement. 

The building of public sector housing had come to a virtual standstill. In many council areas there was unfair allocation of the homes which were being built. Complaints fell on stone-deaf ears.

The grievance simmered and eventually boiled over and splurged onto the streets.

Control

It was this which delivered the Housing Executive, taking control away from local councils and an ineffectual Housing Trust and bringing forward a points system for allocation.”

Today, social housing has once again emerged as a crisis in the North with nearly 40,000 people on waiting lists. Of them, more than 20,000 are in housing stress and more than 12,000 are deemed statutorily homeless. The Northern Ireland Audit Office reported the number of homeless people in the North increased by 32% between 2012-17 at a cost of £300 million going to private renters.

Fifty years ago the blatant sectarianism of the Unionist Orange state was responsibility for housing inequality. 

Today, following two decades of powersharing between unionism and nationalism, privitasation and the lack of investment in social housing is primarily responsible. In 1991 the NIHE still had responsibility for 170,000 social housing units but the number is down to 92,000 today as a consequence of the Thatcher initiated ‘right to buy’ scheme. 

The Stormont Assembly has blocked the NIHE’s ability to borrow funding to build new homes and renovate existing stock in favour of housing associations. 

Housing associations depend on private funding for house building leading to higher rents for tenants and open a backdoor to privatisation.

People Before Profit demand an end to the running down of the NIHE and the opening up of investment to fund a crash programme of sociat housing building. 

Housing is one of the key civil rights issues for all working class communities across the North. Like defending the NHS and other public services, a people powered movement will be key to ending the housing crisis.

Free Emin Şakir!

By socialistworker

Emin Şakir, an anti-racist activist and member of the Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party (DSİP) in Turkey, has been arrested after a court hearing on charges related to his website www.solyayin.com, a website that contains historic archives of many different left-wing publications across the country. He has been sent to Maltepe Prison in Istanbul.

Emin has a personal and political interest in journalism and publishing. The state prosecutor has classified his file as ‘confidential’ but this is absurd – this an archive of what has been publicly available material.

His lawyers don’t have the full details of charges against him but the latest information is that he has been arrested due to publishing ‘banned’ material on his website. This is therefore a clear and indefensible attack on the basic democratic right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

We extend our solidarity to our comrade Emin and DSİP and condemn this attack on democratic rights – one of many by the Erdogan Government.

We demand his immediate release.

Journalism is not a crime!
Archive work is not a crime!
Free Emin Şakir!

SWP Ireland

https://www.facebook.com/eminsakireozgurluk

Housing and Homelessness FINE GAEL’S  MASK SLIPS

By SW Editor

Leo Varadkar is meant to be the ‘cool’ and ‘modern’ Taoiseach, the master of spin and PR. Fine Gael pride themselves on being the ‘liberal’ and ‘enlightened’ wing of the Irish establishment.

Now over housing and homelessness this liberal mask has slipped.

In a series of tweets and comments their old Blueshirt class prejudice and snobbery has been revealed.

Faced with relentless evidence of the growing crisis Varadkar claimed repeatedly that Ireland has ‘a low level of homelessness compared to our peer countries’.

This was followed by Eileen Gleeson, the Head of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, complaining about volunteers feeding the homeless and saying

‘When somebody becomes homeless it doesn’t happen overnight, it takes years of bad behaviour probably, or behaviour that isn’t the behaviour of you and me.’

And then Junior Minister, Damian English even went so far as to complain that talk about homelessness was damaging Ireland’s ‘international reputation’.

In a situation where the numbers in emergency accommodation have reached an all time high and where all the Government’s so-called ‘housing plans’ have failed to deliver any sort of a solution, the Government have decided to go on the attack by blaming the homeless themselves.

Their blame game is disgusting. They are like the rich in the 19th century who blamed poverty on the ‘idleness’ of the poor and brought in the cruel regime of the workhouses to deter the poor from their ‘bad behaviour’.

It is the mentality of blaming the victims and the poor that brought us TUAM and the Magdalene Laundries; the mentality of Margaret Thatcher and the Tories, who blamed the mass unemployment in Britain in the 1980s on the laziness of the unemployed.

The complete absurdity of these claims is shown by the simple fact that the figures keep rising. Are the Irish people suddenly having a fit of ‘chaotic behaviour’?

But these comments also have a purpose.

They are designed to divert from the Government’s repeated failures and to silence protest by shaming the homeless.

Particularly obnoxious is Minister English’s claim that focus on this issue is damaging Ireland’s reputation.

Note that in English’s thinking it is not actual homelessness that is the problem, just making a fuss about it.

In reality the housing crisis affects not only the hundreds on the streets and the 8000 plus in emergency accommodation but hundreds of thousands of others threatened by soaring rents,  unscrupulous landlords and the robber bankers’ evictions.

And there is only one serious solution: an emergency programme to build affordable public housing.

And there is only one real answer to the vicious rhetoric of the Blueshirt snobs; that is people power.

We need to build now for a mass mobilisation over housing and homelessness in the New Year.

We beat them on water charges. Now we must beat them on housing.

And they hate women too

Not only do they look down on the homeless but many of these Blueshirts also despise women.

Barry Walsh, vice chair of Fine Gael’s Executive Council, has been forced to resign from his position following the exposure of a long series of abusive and misogynistic tweets.

Probably the most appalling of these was what he wrote about comedian and actor, Tare Flynn. “From what Tara Flynn says, she was pregnant and just couldn’t be bothered having a baby. So she had it killed. Why is she a feminist hero?”

But this was only one of many. In particular Walsh engaged in the relentless and repetitive use of the b-word to describe women.

Of course once this came to light Varadkar and his cronies rushed to say this was ‘unacceptable’ and to claim that Walsh was a ‘fringe figure’ in the party. But the truth is these attitudes are prevalent in the establishment and have long been all too ‘acceptable’ and accepted.

(pic:  ‘Fringe member’ Barry Walsh with Enda Kenny.)

The homeless, the poor, the working class, women, immigrants – they despise us all and believe their own wealth, power and privilege derives from their innate personal superiority.

Socialist Worker says to them all ‘Your power is based on class privilege- nothing else. AND IT IS TIME FOR YOU ALL TO GO!’

 

 

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Käthe Kollwitz: Life, Death, and War

By John Molyneux

6 September – 10 December 2017, National Gallery of Ireland |, Free admission

By John Molyneux

It is a wonderful show but be prepared to be moved almost to the point of hurt.

Kollwitz was born in Koningsberg in Prussia in 1867 into a Social Democratic family.

In 1891 she married Karl Kollwitz, a doctor who tended to the poor in Berlin, and this brought her into regular contact with working class people, especially women, who became her main subjects throughout her life.

At the beginning of the First World War in 1914 she, under the influence of the German Social Democratic Party, supported the War.

But later, following the loss of her son, she turned against the War, supported the main anti-war campaigner Karl Liebknecht, and became a Communist which she remained to her death in 1945.

Her work deals almost always with poverty, suffering and grief.

She expresses the horror of war not through pictures of the fighting itself but mainly through showing the grief of those who lose loved ones, above all the grief of mothers with which she was closely personally identified.

Atmosphere

She also produced series of prints and woodcuts depicting the Silesian Weavers Revolt of 1844 which influenced Marx and the barbarities of the Peasant War of the 16th century when tens of thousands of rebelling peasants were slaughtered.

Kollwitz’s dark work – dark in colour and in atmosphere – makes you feel the hardships, and the heroism, of working people through the ages, like a kick in the guts.

Strong stuff indeed which still stands as an indictment of the system we live under.

The Death of Stalin – Comedy of Terror

By SW Editor

Reviewed by Sean Egan

Eliciting audience laughter from inside a secret police torture chamber is no easy task but Iannucci manages to find moments of dark humour in otherwise stomach-churning circumstances.

The veteran political satirist who skewered the shallow spectacle of modern politics in his tv gems: Veep and The Thick of It portrays the frantic struggle for power following Stalin’s death in 1953. The plot is driven by the increasingly slap-dash machinations of jittery Nikita Krushchev (Steve Buscemi) and the sinister secret police boss Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russel Beale).

The Central Committee is also made up of Molotov, ably portrayed by Michael Palin as a doddering relic whose mind is warped by incomprehensible doctrine and rhetoric, unable to parse reality from the official party line. Jeffery Tambor excels as Stalin’s deputy Malenkov whose ineptitude and vanity provide some of the film’s most reliable laughs.

This wealth of experienced actors provides the framework for Iannucci’s signature rapid fire comic dialogue and the film maintains an at times breathless pace allowing the audience to feel drawn into hair brained coup attempts and Central Committee scheming.

Slapstick moments, like the Central Committee’s attempt to carry a urine soaked Stalin’s not quite corpse through his country estate while  screaming at errant servants,  never quite undermine the dread that permeates the film. In fact, it’s among the blackest comedies I’ve seen in quite some time, with scenes in which Beria struts through the concrete bunkers used to hold prisoners being legitimately bone chilling.

Iannucci does an excellent job illustrating the level of ever present dread felt by ordinary Soviet citizens. When we see a fleet of secret police cars and trucks fan out over the city to pull people from their beds never to be seen again we understand how this horror has become a part of everyday life for millions.

The film’s art direction should also be recognised. Stalin’s protracted funeral is an obscene pageant of maximalist red banners, absurd floral displays and outsized, choreographed grief. Malenkov’s increasingly bizarre outfits and Khrushchev’s brown mottled apartment fixtures also highlight the contradictions of Soviet life.

This historically accurate world populated by actors speaking in their own American and British accents could seem jarring, but it only enhances the comic absurdity that drives the film.

The Death of Stalin is a madcap comedy with a plot that hurtles along aided by a keen sense of pacing. But despite the heroic efforts of its cast and its sharp, incisive script it never rises above its darker moments. It manages to be a harrowing kind of comedy, but one well worth your time.

Hundreds march in Dublin for an end to Direct Provision 

By Memet Uludag

By Memet Uludag, Convenor United Against Racism

The national demonstration was organised by United Against Racism and supported by more than 30 campaign groups, trade unions, NGOs and political parties, including People Before Profit, Solidarity, the Green Party, Irish Refugee Council, Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, European Network Against Racism, Galway Anti-Racism Network, Unite, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Rosa and others.

It was attended by large groups of asylum seekers currently in Direct Provision centres in Dublin, Galway, Sligo, Cork, Kerry and Limerick.

The demands of the demonstration were, ending of the direct provision system, the right to work, access to third level education and social protection for asylum seekers.

The march from Garden of Remembrance to City Hall was very lively and protestors chanted, “One Race Human Race”, “No hate no fear, refugees are welcome here”, “End direct provision-No deportations”.

Direct Provision was introduced in 2000 to accommodate asylum seekers while their refugee applications were processed. Currently there are 5000 asylum seekers, including 1600 children in 35, mostly privately operated, centres.  Direct Provision centres are run for profit by more than 15 private operators and over the years companies like Aramark, Fazyard, and Mosney Holiday have made millions of Euro profits from government contracts. These operators are compared to US prison business run by private companies.

Asylum seekers

Asylum seekers in Direct Provision have no right to work, they cannot avail of free third level education and don’t receive any social welfare payments. Instead the government pays a miserable  €21.60 per week allowance. Direct Provision centres are restricted areas with strict access control and management practices.

Many asylum seekers speaking at the demo, some more than 7 years in the system, told their stories of  Direct Provision and the serious issues they are facing in this segregated, prison like living environment. Many are facing physical and mental health issues and feel trapped in DP without an end in sight.

Cruel

Among the speakers were also anti-racism activists and TDs. People Before Profit TD Brid Smith said, “It was my privilege to speak at yesterday’s march and rally to end Direct Provision.

“This cruel system punishes people fleeing war, poverty and injustice while at the same time our government pampers the rich tax dodgers and robber-bankers. We must challenge these priorities and embrace humanity.”

Activists pointed out that the recent plans by the government to give asylum seekers a very limited right to work would not help 90% of the people in direct provision due to restrictive conditions attached to this proposed change.

Speakers also condemned deportations and demanded the government stop the deportations of asylum seekers.

Organisers have called for further actions and protests until the entire system is ended and asylum seekers are given the chance to re-build their lives in Ireland.

For many years United Against Racism has been actively campaigning against Direct Provision. It has organised many events and demonstrations with more people joining the campaign.

If you like to take part in the end direct provision campaign join United Against Racism here  http://www.united-against-racism.net/join-uar/

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