A CALL FROM PARIS TO VATICAN CITY

Paris: Ah, si. Hello? Buena tarde, your Holiness. Thank you for ….

Now former Archbishop of Paris Aupetit

Vatican: Bona sera, your Eminence. Or bonne après-midi, if you prefer. His Holiness regrets he cannot come to the telephone at this moment. He asked me to attend to you personally.

Paris: Oh. I see. The thing is …. I need to speak to His Holiness privately. The matter is …. personal … and private.

Vatican: I am aware of your situation, your Eminence. It is hardly private anymore, is it?

(strangled sound).

Vatican: Are you alright, your Eminence?

Paris: (Sigh) Yes. Please excuse me. It’s true, the matter is all over the French media.

Vatican: And no doubt on its way around the world by now.

Paris: Oui, je suis desolé. So ashamed.

Vatican: You wished to discuss the matter with his Holiness? He has been made aware of it even before he received your letter, offering your resignation. His Holiness has empowered me to respond to you – in confidence, of course.

Paris: Yes, I was wondering ….. whether a confession … public apology …. without needing to resign …

Vatican: I don’t think that would work, your Eminence.

Paris: Why not? Isn’t our faith centred on forgiveness?

Vatican: Well, forgive me, your Eminence but in your decades of service to the Church ..

Paris: Yes, decades! And this is in the past – nine years ago!

Vatican: As I was saying, your Eminence, in your decades of service to the Church …. how many public transgressions of a moral nature have you forgiven?

Paris: Is not the flesh weak? Am I to be punished for experiencing love? Is our faith not about love?

Vatican: Please, your eminence. We have all taken a vow of chastity, of celibacy. We can leave the Church anytime we wish if we feel that is too much. And besides, a great many of your priests have hardly been restraining themselves …..

Paris: My sin was not like theirs, this was a woman, adult and willing and not in an institution!

Vatican: Quite. But for all those clerics and religious orders to have got away with it for so long? Over 200,000 victims of 3,000 priests over the last 70 years in France, according to an investigation. They must have had some help at the top, don’t you think, your Eminence? I am sure the French public at least will be asking themselves that question. And last year His Holiness accepted the resignation of a French Cardinal! No, no, your Eminence. His Holiness accepts your resignation. And wishes you well, of course.

Paris: I …. all because I fell in love, like a human being.

Vatican: No, pardon me, your Eminence. Because you got caught.

(Click! – but somehow the connection remains unbroken. The ex-Archbishop hears, in Italian which he knows reasonably well:
“Well, Aupetit’s appetite …..”

and several sniggers. Then the line finally does go dead.)

REFERENCE:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/paris-archbishop-who-had-ambiguous-relationship-resigns/2021/12/02/d4340160-5363-11ec-83d2-d9dab0e23b7e_story.html

THE UNDERWATER BALLET DANCER

Diarmuid Breatnach

The first time I saw a live octopus, we were both underwater and I will never forget it.

On a holiday in the Balearic Islands I had booked a sub-aqua dive with one of those diving schools one finds in those kinds of places. After safety instruction on the sub-aqua gear and rules of conduct, I went out in a boat with another novice and the instructor. It was only my second dive and I was very nervous; the first had been terrifying at first and some echo of that remained.

Once down below and looking at the plants, fish and other life down there, I forgot about my fear and, dallying, began to lag behind the other novice, who was swimming close to the instructor ahead. Then I passed a black rock from which a golden eye looked at me.

Stopping in amazement, I saw that it was indeed an eye. And the black “rock” resolved itself into a dark octopus, draped over a dark rock. It looked at me and I back at it. With its body less than the size of a football, I was startled but not at all frightened. After a few seconds I shot off fast after the instructor, to bring him back and show him.

Almost as bad as the initial fear of going down, I had found the frustration of being unable to speak underwater. But I quickly managed to convey that there was something of interest back there and that I wished him to come and look. When they both swam back to the rock, I showed them the octopus, which had remained in place.

Wait. Watch this, the instructor signalled and gently pulled the animal away from its resting place. Knowing something about the power of its tentacles and suckers, I did wonder briefly how he had accomplished this. But a few seconds later I was enthralled and so was the other novice.

The instructor began to lob the animal gently from one outstretched hand to another, guiding it in a ballet through the water, the tentacles now flaring open like a flower, then trailing behind like a mane. The octopus appeared to be more than enduring the experience passively – it seemed to be cooperating. We were spellbound.

After I don’t know how long, the octopus decided it wished to leave the dance and, finding itself still being tossed by its ballet partner, released a plume of ink and departed.

The instructor, clearly pleased, looked at us, we at him and at one another. The inability to speak, to express the wonder at what we had seen, was for me intense.

(Image sourced: Internet)

I don’t remember now much more about that dive. I have learned a lot more about octopuses over the years. Their group is called cephalopods and there are around 300 different known species of octopus in the world, inhabiting all seas. They display behaviour associated with intelligence, can distinguish between some different humans and learn some skills quite quickly (watch videos of them unscrewing the lid off a glass jar to get at the crab inside or see the My Octopus Teacher documentary on netflix).

Wikipedia tells me that the species vary in adult size from “The giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) (which) is often cited as the largest known octopus species. Adults usually weigh around 15kg (33lb), with an arm span of up to 4.3m (14ft). The largest specimen of this species to be scientifically documented was an animal with a live mass of 71kg (156.5lb). Much larger sizes have been claimed for the giant Pacific octopus: one specimen was recorded as 272kg (600lb) with an arm span of 9m (30ft). A carcass of the seven-arm octopus, Haliphron atlanticus, weighed 61kg (134lb) and was estimated to have had a live mass of 75kg (165lb). The smallest species is Octopus wolfi, which is around 2.5cm (1in) and weighs less than 1g (0.035oz).

(Image sourced: Internet)

Many of the species are highly-appreciated items in the seafood cuisine of many countries on all the inhabited continents of the Earth.

But I have never been able to eat octopus since watching that underwater ballet.

End.

A WORKERS’ UNION IS ITS DEMONSTRATED STRENGTH

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 13 mins.)

Arising out of a recent discussion, I was thinking about what makes a workers’ union – when is an organisation a union and when is it not. And what does it have to do to prove that it is a union, as well as can what once was a union become defunct as a union while still not being defunct as an organisation. In the present time of low union activity as well as in higher activity periods, there are some fundamentals worth considering.

Picketers in the 2019 Stop & Shop strike (USA) in the rain in Natucket after their management forced them off company property. The workers won a victory in 11 days. (Photo credit NickleenF)

DEFINITIONS

Searching for definitions on line as to what constitutes a trade union, I came across the following:

Oxford on-line English Dictionary: an organized association of workers in a trade, group of trades, or profession, formed to protect and further their rights and interests.

Citizens Information: A trade union is an organisation that protects the rights and interests of its members. Members are employees in a particular sector or job, for example, teaching or nursing.

A trade union can:

  • Be an important source of information for employees
  • Provide employees with protection on employment issues
  • Negotiate with the employer for better pay and conditions

A trade union must have a negotiating licence in order to negotiate on employee wages and other conditions of employment.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) is the single umbrella organisation for trade unions, representing a range of interests of ICTU members, both in Ireland and in Northern Ireland. ICTU also run the website unionconnect.ie to facilitate people to join a union.

Companies Registration Office (registration as a Friendly Society1): Trade unions are registered under the Trade Union Acts 1871-1990. Trade unions are established to represent workers in their relations with employers or to act as representative bodies for particular interest groupings.

In order to register a trade union, the grouping involved, which must consist of at least seven people, must draw up a set of rules governing the operation of the union. The rules must as a minimum contain the matters required to be provided for by the First Schedule of the Trade Union Act 1871. The rules, together with the prescribed application form and fee are submitted to the Registrar for examination and, once the rules are found to be in accordance with statute, the union is registered.

Registration as a trade union does not guarantee that a union will receive a negotiation licence; this is a matter for the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in which the Registrar of Friendly Societies has no function. Application form is available by emailing rfs@enterprise.gov.ie.

Wikipedia: A trade union (or a labor union in American English), often simply referred to as a union, is an organization of workers who have come together to achieve common goals, such as protecting the integrity of their trade, improving safety standards, and attaining better wages, benefits (such as vacation, health care, and retirement), and working conditions through the increased bargaining power wielded by solidarity among workers. Trade unions typically fund the formal organization, head office, and legal team functions of the trade union through regular fees or union dues. The delegate staff of the trade union representation in the workforce are made up of workplace volunteers who are appointed by members in democratic elections.

The trade union, through an elected leadership and bargaining committee, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members (rank and file members) and negotiates labour contracts (collective bargaining) with employers. The most common purpose of these associations or unions is “maintaining or improving the conditions of their  employment“.[1] This may include the negotiation of wages, work rules, occupational health and safety standards, complaint procedures, rules governing status of employees including promotions, just cause conditions for termination, and employment benefits.

Unions may organize a particular section of skilled workers (craft unionism),[2] a cross-section of workers from various trades (general unionism), or attempt to organize all workers within a particular industry (industrial unionism). The agreements negotiated by a union are binding on the rank and file members and the employer and in some cases on other non-member workers. Trade unions traditionally have a constitution which details the governance of their bargaining unit and also have governance at various levels of government depending on the industry that binds them legally to their negotiations and functioning. ……………………………

A modern definition by the Australian Bureau of Statistics states that a trade union is “an organization consisting predominantly of employees, the principal activities of which include the negotiation of rates of pay and conditions of employment for its members.”[6]

Yet historian R.A. Lesson, in United we Stand (1971), said:

Two conflicting views of the trade-union movement strove for ascendancy in the nineteenth century: one the defensive-restrictive guild-craft tradition passed down through journeymen’s clubs and friendly societies, … the other the aggressive-expansionist drive to unite all ‘labouring men and women’ for a ‘different order of things’.

Karl Marx described trade unions thus: “The value of labour-power constitutes the conscious and explicit foundation of the trade unions, whose importance for the … working class can scarcely be overestimated. The trade unions aim at nothing less than to prevent the reduction of wages below the level that is traditionally maintained in the various branches of industry. That is to say, they wish to prevent the price of labour-power from falling below its value” (Capital V1, 1867, p.1069).

We can note, across these definition from different sources, some constants: Trade unions (henceforth referred to by me as “unions” or “workers’ unions”) are

  • representative associations
  • of workers
  • that represent them in negotiations with employers

So, they have to be representative of workers (employers have their own formal associations) and they must, in general represent their worker-members. Well, few would debate the first condition and for the moment we can accept the second (though we will return to discuss this further).

I would argue however that there is another essential qualification which has not been mentioned even though for some it may be taken for granted: A union must be able to call a significant number of workers in a significant workplace, company or industry into industrial action and does so when necessary (whether that be strike, sit-down, go-slow, ban on certain kinds of work, etc.). In stating that I can quote for the moment no authority or source and yet I am adamant that if the association is not able to do so, it is not a union. I base my definition on experience and logic.

THREAT AND NEGOTIATION

We note that the “negotiation” with employers is mentioned in most if not all definitions. Present in every successful negotiation of workers with employers is a threat, that of action by the workers which will reduce or postpone the profits of the employers. This in turn is mediated by the threat of the employer to dismiss or otherwise penalise workers, to starve them into submission or to unleash private or State violence upon them2. The main reason for non-State employers to be in business of whatever kind is to make a profit and a substantial one at that and, in the case of an employer failing to avail of opportunities to do, other employers, i.e other capitalists, will move in, outcompete and even take over the company3.

State companies have a responsibility to the ruling class to keep systems going, e.g public transport to deliver employees to work for private businesses, power supply to run the private enterprises, water and refuse collection to manage sanitation of working areas and reduce infections of the workforce, etc. So in successful negotiation with a State employer, the threat of workers’ action must be present also.

The threat may be implicit only but cannot remain effective if unrealised forever and every once in a while, employers will test it by a refusal (or procrastination) to accede to the demands of a union. In such a situation, the “negotiation” is ended or at least halted while both sides test the ability to resist of the other. If the employers are resolute and have enough resources but the workers are either not resolute or their resources are insufficient, the employers will win.

If the workers are resolute enough and are well-resourced and their action costs the employers enough so that the latter consider it better in the long run to accede to the demands, the workers will win. However, even when the workers are defeated in one battle, the action may have hurt the employers and next time there is a confrontation, they may be prepared to concede more. Even in failure in some cases, the threat of action has been shown to be a real one.

Picketers in the successful 2019 strike at the Stop & Shop chain by the United Food & Commercial Workers (USA & Canada). The Teamsters’ union instructed their members to respect the picket lines. After protracted negotiations failed, the strike began on 11 April 2019 and ended on April 21, 2019, after the company and the striking workers reached a tentative agreement, which preserved health and pension benefits and raised employee pay. The 11-day strike cost the company $224 million in lost sales and $90–100 million in lost profits. The tentative agreement was viewed by the union as a “powerful victory”.
In August 2019, Ahold Delhaize reported the 11-day strike resulted in a $345 million loss in sales, with an estimated 1 in 10 customers not coming back to the store as a regular customer after the strike. (Photo sourced: Internet) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_Stop_%26_Shop_strike

If however over a number of years the unions do not exercise their muscle while at the same time enduring reductions in the working conditions and living standards of their members, the workers, they become more and more unions in form but not in content and the employers will pay less and less attention to their demands. Indeed, the only threat perceived by the employers in such situations is that the ineffective unions may be replaced by another or others more effective or lose control of their members to “unofficial” or “wildcat” action. Better the devil that they not only know but can manage, than the one they don’t.

I repeat: A union must be able to call a significant number of workers in a significant workplace, company or industry into industrial action and does so when necessary (whether that be strike, sit-down, go-slow, ban on certain kinds of work, etc.). In that respect, the crucial condition is not whether the organisation is more or less democratic, or socialist, or egalitarian, more or less environmentalist etc, though of course all those attributes are desirable. It must be effective, able to threaten and make good its threat.

Therefore calling an organisation a “union” does not of itself make it one and indeed an organisation may conversely be a workers’4 union without calling itself one, providing it is able to call a significant number of workers in a significant workplace, company or industry into industrial action and does so when necessary.

So I have extended the definition of a union: an organisation consisting predominantly of employees to defend the interests of its members and improve their remuneration and conditions of work and that isable to call a significant number of workers in a workplace, company or industry into industrial actionand which does so when necessary.

Workers of the United Auto Workers on strike picket the John Deere Harvester Works facility on Oct. 14, 2021, in East Moline, Illinois.
 Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

But what is a “significant number of workers in a significant workplace, company or industry”? Though this is more open to interpretation, it is nevertheless determined by two things, one of which is its ability to call an effective number of workers in the designated workplace into industrial action and the other is the relative size of the workplace, company or industry concerned. Of course, the workplace may be a shop or small garage or small farm, employing say around 50 people, in which all the workers are able to strike and do so, forcing the employer to accede to their demands or at least a significant (yes, that word again) number of them. The workers’ organisation in that case I would submit qualifies as a union on all grounds except one: the workplace is not a significant one in terms of industry or agriculture. It may go on from that initial success to extend to other workplaces but until it does so, it is a union only in the specific sense of that particular workplace.

However, if the organisation were to represent the majority of workers in one necessary part of a company’s production, willing to exercise its power and able to adversely affect the company’s output and profits, then that organisation would qualify as a union, according to my definition, even though it might represent only a small fraction of the total workforce.

Or if the one workplace in which the workers’ organisation is active is an extended one, for example a chain of stores or a major utility company. Or, as is sometimes the case, the workers’ organisation were to represent workers across an entire industry (“industrial unionism”), or groups of them in a number of different industries ( “general unionism”) or seeking to recruit all workers (“syndicalism”).

WHEN IS A UNION NOT A UNION?

It is important (and I would contend, crucial) also to define what a union is not. It is not

  • an organisation set up by a State and controlled by it
  • an organisation set up by employers
  • or the worker organisation’s offices, officers and other employees

Unions” set up by the State

States have set up “unions”, for example in the case of corporate states, i.e fascism and when they have done so, have banned real workers’ unions.

In Nazi Germany, workers’ unions were abolished. On 2nd May 1933, (after the large annual May Day marches), their leaders were arrested, their funds confiscated and strikes declared illegal. Workers lost the right to negotiate wage increases and improvements in working conditions and all workers had to join the German Labour Front (DAF) run by Dr. Robert Ley. Within two years, under various pressures, 20 million workers had joined DAF but they had no independent rights.5

Italian fascists waged war on the unions between 1920 and 1922 when Mussolini took power, burning trade union offices, and beating and torturing trade unionists. In Turin, the key industrial centre, fascist squads celebrated Mussolini coming to power by attacking trade union offices and killing 22 trade unionists”6.

“The Pact of Vidoni Palace in 1925 brought the fascist trade unions and major industries together, creating an agreement for the industrialists to only recognise certain unions and so marginalise the non-fascist and socialist trade unions. The Syndical Laws of 1926 (sometimes called the Rocco Laws after Alfredo Rocco) took this agreement a step further as in each industrial sector there could be only one trade union and employers organisation. Labour had previously been united under Edmondo Rossoni and his General Confederation of Fascist Syndical Corporations, giving him a substantial amount of power even after the syndical laws, causing both the industrialists and Mussolini himself to resent him. Thereby, he was dismissed in 1928 and Mussolini took over his position as well.

“Only these syndicates could negotiate agreements, with the government acting as an “umpire”. The laws made both strikes and lock-outs illegal and took the final step of outlawing non-fascist trade unions. Despite strict regimentation, the labour syndicates had the power to negotiate collective contracts (uniform wages and benefits for all firms within an entire economic sector).”7

In Spain the communists, anarchists and social democrats had organised trade unions which supported the Popular Front Government and mobilised against the military-fascist coup in 1936. Following the victory of the military and fascists the State, under General Franco, jailed or executed many of the trade union leaders and members and declared their unions illegal.

The Franco regime set up the “vertical union” (i.e controlled from above) officially known as the Organización Sindical Obrera (OSE); industrial resistance was illegal and in any case extremely difficult to organise, due to the defeat of the republican and socialist forces and the massive repression of all democratic and socialist trends.8

Union resistance under fascism

However, when workers of various kinds of socialist thinking joined these state unions either through being forced to do so or in conscious infiltration, many maintained their old allegiances and worked to subvert fascist rule and control of the workers.

“On 5 March 1943, workers at the giant FIAT Mirafiori car plant in Turin walked out on strike. As it became clear the dictatorship could not repress the strike it spread within Northern Italy, involving one hundred thousand workers. Mussolini was forced to grant pay rises and better rations, but in conceding he struck the death knell for the regime.”9

In 1947, eight years after the victory of the military-fascists, metal workers in the Basque province of Bizkaia went on strike in spite of repression by the authorities and a clandestine trade union movement began to organise. “Another historic year in the incipient union movement was 1951, when there were strikes and demonstrations in Barcelona, Madrid and the Basque Country in the early part of the year. These were mainly spontaneous, although the clandestine unions which had grown up since 1947 did support and take part in them. An important role was also played by the Spanish Communist Party PCE, and Roman Catholic workers’ groups.” “In a context of socio-economic change in Spain in the late 1950s, as industrialisation accelerated …. there was a significant growth in the Spanish working class. In 1962 miners and industrial workers began to hold strikes all over the country.”10

The two main trade unions in the Spanish state today, the CCOO (Comisiones Obreras) and the UGT (Unión General de Trabajadores), the first originally under Communist Party direction and the smaller second under the social democratic PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero de España) grew out of that resistance (although the UGT had been in existence prior to the military-fascist uprising). Activists had infiltrated the vertical union and workers began to elect militants to represent them in demands to the employers – this in particular was the origin of the Comisiones Obreras.

Employer-led ‘unions’:

Employers have also set up “unions” in order to undermine an existing union or in order to prevent a real union from organising workers in their enterprises.

These have been called “company unions”11 or “yellow unions”, the latter possibly after the French Fédération nationale des Jaunes de France (“National Federation of the Yellows of France”) which was created by Pierre Biétry in 1902.12

Up to the mid 1930s, ‘company’ or ‘yellow’ unions were quite common in the USA and after the Ludlow Massacre13, John D. Rockefeller had one created to improve his company’s image and to resist the struggles of mineworkers and of the United Mineworkers’ Union in Colorado; he called it the Employee Representation Plan.14

“In 1935, the National Labor Relations Act (also known as the Wagner Act) was passed, dramatically changing labour law in the United States. Section 8(a)(2) of the NLRA makes it illegal for an employer “to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it.” Company unions were considered illegal under this code, despite the efforts of some businesses to carry on under the guise of an ‘Employee Representation Organization.’”15

Japan has company unions that are not in the RENGO federation of independent unions and the company ones appeal to an ideology of loyalty towards one’s paternalistic employer.16

In the 1930s, unions in Mexico organized the Confederation of Mexican Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores de México, CTM). The state of Nuevo Leon, however, coordinated its workers into sindicatos blancos (“white unions”), company unions controlled by corporations in the industrialised region.

Naturally a “union” of this type is unwilling and indeed unable to call a significant number of workers in a workplace, company or industry into industrial action to defend the interests of its members and improve their remuneration conditions of work (my definition of a workers’ union). Therefore I contend that they are not workers’ unions.

UNIONS INACTIVE IN STRUGGLE TODAY

But there are unions that have built themselves up in membership (and incidentally by union dues revenue) by proving themselves willing and able to call their members out in action to enforce their demands of the employers – but who have not been doing so for some time. We are increasingly seeing these in Western Europe at least and often the reason quoted is that state legislation is making it harder for the unions to organise, or to take action effectively. And rather than jail for union activists as in the past, the threat of the State is sequestration of union funds. The union leaders, officers and clerical support staff view such threats as extremely serious, evoking the possibility of the demise of the trade union or at the very least its inability to maintain its functions and payment for its superstructure of staffing, buildings and equipment.

Those are of course real threats with some states proving their ability to carry them out in the past and consequently union leaders draw back from struggles that might result in such an eventuality – or even attempt to smother them. The union leadership become, in effect, the firefighters of the employers. When they reach that position, they are not really the union any more. The union is not the organisation’s offices, officers and other employees. Its leaders are forgetting that back in the history of this or of many other unions, its organisers and members maintained only a rudimentary bureaucracy while they fought for the gains to be wrenched from the employers — organisers and even ordinary members faced sacking, police baton charges, strike-breaker violence, jail, torture and even death. When safeguarding the superstructure of the union outweighs defending and advancing the members’ interests, it is time for the union leadership to retrace its step – or vacate the spot.

A union may fail to be recognised as such by the employers and/ or the State but (based on my definition) that does not affect its status as a union, so long as it is an organisation consisting predominantly of employees to defend the interests of its members and improve their remuneration and conditions of work and able to call a significant number of workers in a workplace, company or industry into industrial action and does so when necessary.

To be sure, an employer refusing to recognise the right of the union to represent its employees and to negotiate on their behalves does represent an additional challenge. But we should not forget that all workers’ unions once faced that initial obduracy but nevertheless in time became accepted by the employers. And it required a long process for some of those unions, with unsuccessful industrial action and many sacrifices as part of it.

The opposition of the State, acting in the first place for the capitalist class it represents and secondly in its own interests as an employer, is another serious obstacle for unions. Currently in most of Europe and certainly in Ireland, the State does not outlaw unions but it does place many restrictions around them and, in some cases, removes their protections.

The protection received by a union that is recognised by the State exists mostly in exemption from some legal procedures such as being sued for causing loss of profits for a company and exemption from arrest for picketing (“loitering”, “obstruction”, etc). However, the laws of none of the European states exempt workers from arrest for persistently obstructing the entry of strike-breakers or goods to a workplace where the workers are on strike. In most European countries, picketing, boycott and blockade in solidarity by “non-involved” unions – i.e “secondary picketing” etc — is against the law to a greater or lesser degree. Well, such laws are made by the capitalist class to protect themselves and then processed through a parliament where most of the elected public representatives are supporters of that same class. To receive legal protection from capitalist laws the union must be recognised by the capitalist State which entails meeting the necessary requirements in order to be registered as “a friendly association” and receiving “a negotiation licence”.

However, while these provisions affect very deeply the ease or otherwise of the organisation, they do not in my opinion have anything to do with whether it is or is not a workers’ union.

Another hurdle to get over for “recognition” is that of acceptance by the Irish Trade Union Congress. A union not recognised by the ITUC will receive no support from that body in application to the State for a “negotiation licence” and members of other “recognised” unions will be encouraged to cross any picket line of an “unrecognised” union. That is obviously a serious situation for a young union that is “unrecognised” but again, it does not define whether or not it is a union.

Say what the State, employers or the ITUC leadership may say, the reality remains that a union is an organisation consisting predominantly of employees to defend the interests of its members and improve their remuneration and conditions of work and that is able to call a significant number of workers in a workplace, company or industry into industrial action and which does so when necessary. Not whether it is — or is not — recognised or facilitated by those other bodies.

Funeral of James Byrne, shop steward of the Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union, who died as a result of his hunger strike in protest at imprisonment during the 1913 Lockout (Photo sourced: Internet). The workers were defeated in an 8-month struggle but the union recovered and bounced back. The ITGWU has gone through a number of changes resulting in the largest union in Ireland today, SIPTU. But is it carrying out its responsibilities as a union today, to say nothing of living up to its inheritance?

As the unions in many states have become more and more passive (in the Irish state particularly through the years of “social partnership”17) they have lost much of their accreditation in reality. As they fail further to justify their existence they will be replaced and for example the British-based union Unite is moving into the Irish arena. But the new union, despite its local leaders speaking militantly at rallies of some campaigns and investing some of its effort into building support in the community, is demonstrating the same reluctance to take determined action against the employers, whether private or State. Should that state of affairs continue then that too will fall and be replaced.

But by what and when?

End.

FOOTNOTES

1A friendly society has nothing necessarily to do with being friendly but is is a mutual association for the purposes of insurance, pensions, savings or cooperative banking. It is a mutual organisation or benefit society composed of a body of people who join together for a common financial or social purpose.

2While some readers may be surprised or even dismissive of reference to “private or State violence”, there can hardly be a state which does not at least on occasion – some more often than others — employ police or judicial violence against striking workers. In the past in many countries and perhaps in particular in the USA, companies employed private security staff or company police to act against worker disobedience, in addition to agencies such as the Pinkerton not only to gather intelligence on union organisers but to attack them physically or to prepare cases for their conviction of law-breaking in court. In some parts of the world companies – often with their HQs in the “West” — continue to employ their own security staff against union organising, sometimes with fatal results for the union organisers.

3This applies even if the company should still be making a profit but is not maximising it. The company’s shareholders and investors, including institutions such as banks, trust funds, pension funds etc will begin to desert the company to a competitor offering a higher return on investments and said company may even engage in a “hostile takeover” bid, by bringing sufficient numbers of shareholders to vote in favour of its takeover. This is one of the laws of the operation of capitalism and one reason why it there is little point in appealing to the individual consciences of capitalists.

4Sometimes workers’ unions have called themselves by other names, including “society” and “association” in order to circumvent anti-trade union legislation for example.

5https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zxs2pbk/revision/8#:~:text=Trade%20unions%20were%20abolished.,which%20was%20run%20by%20Dr.

6https://www.counterfire.org/articles/opinion/19778-why-fascists-hate-trade-unions

7https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Fascist_Italy

8https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Syndical_Organization

9https://www.counterfire.org/articles/opinion/19778-why-fascists-hate-trade-unions

10https://www.surinenglish.com/lifestyle/201809/14/september-1964-birth-what-20180914090919-v.html

11To be confused with a genuine employee’s union built up within a particular company, for example in a power-generating monopoly or state service company, whether privatised or not.

12https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Company_unions (“Yellow” in opposition to the “Red” of socialism; however “yellow” also exists as a pejorative description of cowardice)

13Massacre by company guards and the National Guard of strikers and their children on 20 April 1914 during the Great Colorado Coal Strike, after which the workers took up arms. It was the subject of a song composed and sung by Woody Guthrie and others, e.g Jason Boland and Andy Irvine.

14Ibid.

15 Ibid,

16Despite this and generally not recruiting part-time workers, membership of workers’ unions in Japan stood at 18.5% in 2010 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_unions_in_Japan

171983-???? In 2010: “Following 23 years of social partnership the Irish trades unions (ICTU) entered the new decade seriously weakened and with union employee density down to 31% compared to a density highpoint of 62% in the early 1980s preceding the series of seven corporatist social pacts.[2] Union penetration is highly imbalanced with a density approaching 80% in the public sector and around 20% in the larger private sector.”

SOURCES AND REFERENCES

Definitions of workers’ union:

https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/employment/employment_rights_and_conditions/industrial_relations_and_trade_unions/trade_unions.html

https://www.cro.ie/Society-Union/RFS-Trade-Unions

Unions under fascism:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zxs2pbk/revision/8#:~:text=Trade%20unions%20were%20abolished.,which%20was%20run%20by%20Dr.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Syndical_Organization

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Fascist_Italy

https://www.counterfire.org/articles/opinion/19778-why-fascists-hate-trade-unions

Yellow unions:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Company_union

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/18/boots-defeat-meek-unions

Social Partnership: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Partnership

The International Criminal Court Has Gone — Who Will Save Us Now?

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

There is a long tradition amongst NGOs, sectors of the reformist left, trade unionists and others in Colombia that someone outside the country will save us. The saviours are the North Americans (despite their role in the conflict), the European Union (despite their role as well and that of their companies), and international institutions such as the International Criminal Court, or the mechanisms set up in the peace accord (national ones but financed internationally). So, the decision by the ICC to shut down its preliminary investigation of Colombia was like a bucket of cold water to them. But it was to be expected.

Banner carrying faces and names of youth from Soacha and Bogotá murdered by the Colombian National Army. The banner was displayed in a march in Bogatá on the 6th March, the Day of Victims of State Violence. (Photo credit: GOL)

When Obama was elected as US president, various journalists and representatives of the left and NGOs announced that he would solve Colombia’s problems and now they have come back to say the same about Biden. A constant feature of this discourse of seeking a foreign saviour is the possibility of taking Uribe (not his Defence Minister, Juan Manuel Santos) to the ICC. They sold a false hope to the victims of the state that there they could obtain justice. They knew it was unlikely, as they knew what the ICC was like and its not very encouraging record in the matter.

To date the ICC has only convicted African leaders. It is not the case that these African leaders are saints or innocent, but rather that the ICC does not go after other criminals. It has procrastinated for many years on its case against Israel and has no authority to investigate the USA. The Court’s website currently indicates that it has 15 ongoing preliminary investigations, ten of them in African countries and five others in Georgia, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Bangladesh and the State of Palestine. This last case will not succeed, of that we can be certain. It has pursued a total of 30 individuals, resulting in 4 convictions.1 The ICC is the opium of the people, it has a soporific effect on people in the midst of their struggles and the NGOs promise Heaven and Divine Justice in a coming future.

A boy carries photos of victims in a march in Bogatá on the 6th March, the Day of Victims of State Violence. (Photo credit: GOL)

There were diverse reactions to the decision to shut down the preliminary investigation. Whilst the victims of the False Positives2 criticised the decision, others such as Senator Iván Cepeda and Eamon Gilmore, the EU envoy to the peace process celebrated it. The Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) lamented the decision, though in a very confusing manner. It continued to praise the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), when it is precisely the existence of the JEP that the ICC used as an excuse to shut down the case.3

Iván Cepeda stated that:

A direct consequence of the agreement signed by Duque’s government with the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor is that once and for all the possibility of reforming the JEP has been discarded. It puts an end to that obsessive aim of the Uribistas. A victory for the peace process.4

A few years ago, he would have denounced the closure of the case as an act of impunity and now he claims it is a victory. As the Greek philosopher Plutarch put it, Another victory like this and all will be lost. Many of us denounced the impunity of the JEP, little did we think that not only would it guarantee impunity in the trials it deals with or excludes from its remit, but that its very existence would be the perfect excuse to shut down international cases against the regime. But the peace acolytes are determined to announce their defeat as a victory.

Protestors holding aloft photos of those murdered and disappeared in a march in Bogatá on the 6th March, the Day of Victims of State Violence. (Photo credit: GOL).

It seems that Senator Gustavo Petro didn’t have much to say about the matter and neither did Senator Alexander López. Piedad Córdoba, however, echoed the statements of Iván Cepeda and said:

They took issue with the JEP and tried to cut its budget, discredit it, dirty propaganda and all in order to cover their own backs. Today the ICC forced the government to strengthen it.5

A young woman carries photos of victims in a march in Bogatá on the 6th March, the Day of Victims of State Violence. (Photo credit: GOL)

It is clear that there are those who in the name of peace would justify any defeat, including a defeat of a proposal they themselves promoted. So, the ICC will not proceed against Colombia, but relax, we have the JEP where the military who, unlike the guerrillas, do not have to tell the whole truth about their crimes and where the businesspeople are excluded.

Of course, the president of the JEP, who once upon a time was the NGOs’ favourite said that he was very pleased with the ICC decision. According to Cifuentes the closure of the investigation against Colombia is a victory won by the JEP,6 i.e. those who for many years talked about how the ICC was going to put the Colombian State in its place, now tell us that the fact the ICC will not proceed against Colombia is a victory.

I really find it difficult to understand their logic, or better still I can’t understand their shamelessness. In the name of their pathetic peace accord, they justify everything and describe it as a victory. Poor Plutarch. If he had to deal with the leaders of the supposed left in Colombia today he would have been more vulgar, but he died many centuries ago, so allow me Plutarch: Another victory like this and the turncoats will be making money like never before.

So, to answer the question posed by this article, who will save us? The answer is no one, or rather, the Colombian people will save themselves, there are no international institutions, nor presidents in other countries who are going to fix the crisis that country has suffered for decades. The only ones who will put Uribe, Santos, Pastrana, Samper and the others in jail are the Colombian people.

“Forget them? That would be a crime against conscience” with images and names of the “disappeared” since 1998. The banner was carried on a march in Bogatá on the 6th March, the Day of Victims of State Violence. (Photo credit: GOL)

Next year is an electoral one and some of those who told us the ICC would do miracles and now celebrate the slap in the face it gave to the victims, will be candidates. They will promise a thousand miracles and when some foreign institution or president says no, they will celebrate it and try to convince us that the defeat was a victory. Changing the saying by Mao, they go from victory to victory to final defeat. Plutarch is as relevant today as ever.

End.

“NOT FORGOTTEN” banner carried on a march in Bogatá on the 6th March, the Day of Victims of State Violence. (Photo credit: GOL)

FOOTNOTES:

1 Information on cases can be consulted at https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/Home.aspx

2 People shot dead by Colombian state forces who were untruthfully claimed as “positives”, i.e guerrilla fighters.

3 RCN (29/10/2021) Falsos positivos: víctimas rechazan cierre del caso contra Colombia en Corte Penal Internacional https://www.rcnradio.com/judicial/falsos-positivos-victimas-rechazan-cierre-del-caso-contra-colombia-en-corte-penal

4 https://twitter.com/IvanCepedaCast/status/1453792170855604235?s=20

5 https://twitter.com/piedadcordoba/status/1454135519194005504?s=20

6 Wradrio (29/10/2021) Gracias la JEP cierran el examen preliminar de la CPI: Eduardo Cifuentes https://www.wradio.com.co/noticias/actualidad/justicia-de-la-jep-esta-dando-resultados-dice-su-presidente/20211029/nota/4174696.aspx

FURTHER INFORMATION:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Criminal_Court

Ella Young, California’s Beloved Irish Druid

By Geoff Cobb

California has long been home to the eccentric and free spirits, so naturally the highly eccentric Irish mystic, poet and Celtic mythologist Ella Young found a home there. The first woman to hold an endowed lectureship in the English Department at the University of California at Berkley, Young left several enduring legacies on the Golden State’s literature, counterculture, and environmental movement.

Nearing old age in Ireland, Young helped spark a new age consciousness in the Bay Area. Young lived the first fifty-eight years of her life in her native land, but even before leaving for America, she traveled far from her conservative Ulster roots. Born in December 1867, in Fenagh, a townland near Ballymena, Co. Antrim, Ella was eldest of five daughters of a Presbyterian minister. The family moved to Dublin at an early age and Young graduated with a BA in History, Political Economy and Law from the Royal University of Ireland. Abandoning Christianity, Ella’s interest in the spirit world led her to join the Hermetic Society, the Dublin branch of the Theosophical Society, which sought to awaken the power and presence of Ireland’s ancient spirits. Young was greatly influenced by fellow Ulster mystical poet AE Russell, and she soon became one of his select group of protégés known as the “singing birds.”

Ella Young in Oceano, California, image in Princeton University of Art Museum.

She found her muse and published her first volume of verse in 1906, and her first work of Irish folklore, The Coming of Lugh, appeared in 1909. Young mixed with luminaries of the Celtic revival including J.M. Synge, W.B. Yeats and Maud Gonne, with whom she might have had a romantic relationship. Like other writers of her day, Ella found great spiritual riches in the West of Ireland, where Irish was still the spoken language of the locals and where she was also able to hear what she called the Music of the Faerie, the ceol sídhe.

Ella completed a master’s degree at Trinity, but she would be drawn into the revolutionary fervor then sweeping Ireland. Young’s immersion in Celtic mythology and theosophy led her to promote a spiritually inflected Irish nationalism. A friend of Patrick Pearse, Ella became a member of Sinn Féin in 1912 and a founding member of Cumann na mBan in 1914. Ella witnessed the 1916 Rising in Dublin and is alleged to have hidden ammunition under the floorboards of her home and helped two fugitive Republican prisoners to escape Dublin. An anti-Treaty Republican, she strongly opposed the Anglo–Irish Treaty and, after supporting different sides, she and her mentor Æ Russell never spoke again. Because of her anti-Treaty stance, Young was interned by the Free State in Mountjoy jail and in the North Dublin Union.

An ardent cultural Nationalist, Young fervently believed the revitalization of Irish culture could be realized through a reconnection with its Celtic mythological roots. She taught in Dublin, but she came of age as an anti-Treaty woman at a time and in a state where her gender, politics and Protestant background severely limited her career opportunities. Young left Ireland for the US In the mid-1920s, where she would spend the rest of her life. Her emigration, she claimed, had been foretold in 1914 by a Romani fortune teller.

Ella Young 1930, Edward Weston Centre for Photography

Fortunately for Ella, Celtic studies scholar William Whittingham Lyman Jr. left his Berkley lectureship in 1922 and Young was hired to fill the vacancy in 1924. Ella, however, was almost forbidden entry into the United States. During an interview in Ellis Island, Young was detained as a probable mental case when the authorities learned that she believed in the existence of fairies, elves, and pixies. However, outrage by her American readers at the ban helped her finally gain entry.

Young fell in love with Berkley, California and Berkley loved her back. Young adored the college town, especially its exotic flora, breathtaking views, and its student culture. She quickly inspired a cult-like following in California. A striking woman, Young cut a dramatic figure with a noble forehead and face that seemed to shine with an inner light. She lectured in what she considered the traditional purple robes of a Druid bard, which she called her “reciting robes,” to visually portray an authentic Irish identity. She let her shoulder-length silver hair hang free and instead of shaking hands when introduced, she raised her hands high in the ancient druid greeting. Poet Padraic Colum compared her to the ancient “women who knew the sacred places and their traditions, who knew the incantations and the cycles of stories about the Divine Powers, and who could relate them with authority and interpret them wisely. . . She speaks of Celtic times as if she were recalling them.” A gifted speaker, Ella held her listeners spellbound with the heroic myths and sagas told in her lilting Irish voice – the voice of the bard, a keeper of the ancient teachings of her ancestors.

Young was above all a gifted storyteller and children’s author. She published The Wonder-Smith and his Son (1925), The Tangle-Coated Horse (1929), and The Unicorn with Silver Shoes (1932), stories for children, inspired by themes from Celtic myth, with beautiful illustrations and written in her delicate, carefully cadenced prose. The Unicorn with Silver Shoes was nominated for the American Newbery Prize for children’s literature in 1932; all her children’s stories were repeatedly reprinted until the 1990s.

(Image sourced: Internet)

Young was a frequent guest at the home of the celebrated California poet Robinson Jeffers, who was also deeply influenced by the Celtic revival. Jeffers and Young both identified the physical and spiritual similarities between California’s Big Sur and the West of Ireland. Ella considered dramatic Point Lobos in Marin County, where she communed with the dryads of the pine trees, the sea spirits, and the great guardian Deva who hovered over the sea with shining wings, to be the center of psychic power for the entire Pacific Coast. Young also became a close friend of Virginia and Ansel Adams, the renowned photographer of California’s wilderness, who made Yosemite Valley a symbol of the state. Adams took several dramatic portraits of Young in her “reciting robes.”

Ella Young lectured that an awareness of the supernatural world in Celtic folklore and literature could bring her listeners into a closer relationship with the natural world around them. Her love for the beauty of California made her an environmentalist long before it became fashionable, and also she saw the Earth as a great living being. She forged a close friendship with Dorothy Erskine, an early California environmentalist and advocate for limiting growth. Young also founded The Fellowship of Shasta, which became involved in environmental activism, working successfully to prevent developers from building on Point Lobos and also with the Save the Redwoods League, which preserved the remaining old-growth forests of California.

An enemy of materialism and egotism, Young espoused “the natural world and our relationship to it” as an alternative to consumerism. Ella moved to a Theosophic commune in Oceano, near San Luis Obispo in the early 1930s, and became part of a community of artists and writers living on the sand dunes, known as the Dunites. Thanks to her friendship with Ansel Adams, Ella stayed with the community of artists in Taos, New Mexico, where she met Georgia O’Keeffe and Frieda Lawrence and studied Native American and Mexican myths.

Back in California, Young assembled around herself a fascinating circle of artists, writers and freethinkers. She became close friends with the Irish-born landscape painter John O’Shea and other West Coast painters. Ella also became intimate with composer Harry Partch, who set several of her poems to music. Perhaps a lesbian herself, Young befriended California pioneers of sexual liberation, such as Elsa Gidlow, the British-born lesbian poet, and Gavin Arthur, a bisexual astrologer and sexologist whom Young first met in 1920s Dublin.

Young developed cancer. In the last year of her life, she claimed that she had been in communication with the occupants of a thimble-sized spaceship which came and hovered in her garden. Ella died in her cottage on July 23rd, 1956, aged eighty-eight. She was cremated, and her ashes were scattered in a redwood grove. She left the royalties from her books to a society that protected those redwoods.

End.

(Image sourced: Internet)

Unapologetic Killers, Unrelenting Liars, And Their Uncaring Supporters

Brandon Sullivan ✒ (in The Pensive Quill)

From the window of the government building I worked in, I noticed a gathering of men.
Mostly dressed in motorcycle leathers, many of them very overweight, and bearded, the crowd grew to perhaps 70 or 80. Some of the men were wearing maroon berets. They were a comedic spectacle: imagine a few score of Ken Maginnis-types in motorcycle leathers. They lined up in military formation, their physical condition making this pretence pathetic rather than sinister, and unfurled a very small banner which read “WE SUPPORT SOLDIER F.”

I couldn’t help thinking of protests against the injustices visited upon the Guilford Four and the Birmingham Six, protests held in England. How society seems to have changed, and not for the better.

Douglas Murray, a neo-conservative thinker and writer much respected and admired by many on the right, had this to say about Soldier F in his peerless account of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry: Soldier F — who fired 13 rounds on the day — whose performance in 1972 and 2003 was most disturbing. It always seemed to me that if anyone was deserving of prosecution, then it was him.

Murray also had this to say about the killers of 14 civilians on Bloody Sunday: “The soldiers of 1 Para weren’t just unapologetic killers, but unrelenting liars.”

“Support the Paras (Parachute Regiment) and Soldier F” — i.e any British soldier who has murdered people from the Nationalist community. (Image sourced: Internet)

Recently, former British solider Dennis Hutchings faced trial for the killing of John Pat Cunningham. Hutchings received much support, including high profile political support, from those who objected to his prosecution. The circumstances of John Pat’s death could scarcely be more upsetting:

A Benburb doctor said the victim, who was his patient, had been born with an incomplete development of mind, and had been declared a person requiring special care. The doctor said that about a year earlier, near the scene of the shooting, he had come across soldiers pushing John Cunningham into a Saracen armoured car. He spoke to the soldiers who said he had been hiding in the bushes and acting suspiciously. The doctor said he had told the young man’s mother about the incident and advised her to keep a special watch on her son’s movements, in view of his apprehension towards soldiers and their uniforms.

Dennis Hutchings is alleged to have shot John Pat in the back as he ran away from an army patrol. There is simply no way that John Pat was a threat to them. British and Unionist politicians were outraged over a prosecution taking place. They were silent when the prosecution of Soldier F, a perjurer, multiple-killer, and perhaps the single greatest recruiting sergeant the PIRA ever had, fell apart.

From tragedy to farce, we can now look at the case of Donald MacNaughton, who was tried and acquitted of attempted murder in 1974. The case against him fell apart because of “inconsistencies” with the victim’s evidence, and the evidence of MacNaughton and his comrades “fitted together and was not mutually contradictory .” MacNaughton was a member of the Parachute Regiment, whose soldiers colluded with each other to lie to several British Government Inquiries, and indeed to British Army investigators. The farce in this case, I think, demonstrates something of the self-degradation of those on the English right: MacNaughton became a Brexit Party campaigner, and is widely believed to have thrown yogurt over himself to gain media attention.

Motorbike rally in Belfast in support of Soldier F, who admitted to firing 13 bullets during the 1972 massacre of unarmed protestors in Derry. (Image sourced: Internet)

Hutchings died before his trial, and will be given full military honours at his funeral. Soldier F was promoted and decorated several times in his military career. Just as their killings of Irish citizens did not unduly affect their lives for decades, was there any serious attempt at prosecuting them to the full extent of the law?

But their prosecution is not really the point. The level of support for them is.

What does it say about sections of society, and politicians, if they can support those suspected of murder, so long as it was committed by a uniformed killer, regardless of the status of the victim?

⏩ Brandon Sullivan is a middle aged, middle management, centre-left Belfast man. Would prefer people focused on the actual bad guys.

“DEADLY CUTS” FILM IS … DEADLY

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 4 mins.)

“DEADLY CUTS” FILM IS … DEADLY1

Michelle (Angeline Ball) runs a hairdressing salon in Piglinstown, a fictional Dublin city suburb that looks like Finglas3 and the area is suffering the attention of a local gang of thugs led by Deano (Ian Lloyd Anderson). The Gardaí4, represented by one individual played by Dermot Ward, are ineffectual in dealing with local crime and seem also well-disposed to a local politician, a Dublin City councillor, whose solution to the area is demolition of a parade of shops, including the hairdressing salon, followed by redevelopment. Michelle’s staff are Stacey (Ericka Roe), Chantelle (Shauna Higgins) and Gemma (Lauren Larkin).

Playing smaller roles are the local butcher Jonner (Aaron Edo), along with owners of the fish and chip shop, the local pub, pub entertainment organiser and three elderly ladies in particular.

Darren Flynn (Aidan McArdle) is the local politician, a Dublin City Councillor, who lets slip later in the film that he has a lot of property speculators waiting to get their hands on the area. Of course, in real life, nothing like that would happen in Dublin City Council, among the Councillors or the City Managers, would it? Quite apart from that, one must feel some sympathy for a certain Dublin City councillor who must surely wince every time he hears “Councillor Flynn” mentioned in the film’s dialogue.

(Image sourced: Internet)

If you know Dublin working and lower-middle class suburbs then some of the visual scenes will be familiar, the streets of housing, the green area, short strips of shops, including the chipper, the cheeky kids on bikes, the pub as a social centre. But for women the hairdressing salon plays a social role too as one can see from the varied ages and requirements of the customers. There was a time in some areas when the local barber shop played the same role for men, the waiting customers, the customer in the chair and the barber all taking part in the same conversation.

You’ll know too that unemployment tends to be higher in such areas and that there are social problems in particular with bored and disengaged youth, drug-taking and selling …. but not necessarily more of the taking than occurs in middle-class areas, particularly when the young people start clubbing.

Areas that could do with regeneration around the local community are not unusual in and around Irish cities but when that regeneration takes place it’s usually for another class – the gentrification project. That’s what’s in store for Piglinstown, if Mr. Flynn and his invisible property speculators have their way. This film is making its debut at a time when property speculators are visibly running wild over Dublin, building hotels, residential apartment and student accommodation blocks (of which most students can’t afford the rents), meanwhile destroying communities, cultural amenities and historical sites. And Dublin City Managers are giving the go-ahead for these planning applications while An Bord Pleanála regularly turns down appeals or moderates the application somewhat but rarely in essence.

The highpoint of the film both in tension and in flash and showbiz buzz is the Ahh Hair competition, which the Piglinstown hair dressing salon wants to win in order to boost their profile and avoid demolition by the speculators. Here Pippa (Victoria Smurfit) plays the vicious upper-class nasty with abandon, aided by her three familiars, the snooty Eimear (Sorcha Fahey) chief among them, many hands in the film’s audience surely itching to slap. Nor is the nastiness only verbal.

Snooty upper-class hair stylist Pippa, played by Victoria Smurfit, at the Ahh Hair competition. (Image sourced: Internet)

But it is also high satire, from Thommas Kane-Byrne as Kevin, the camp announcer and poseur judges with ridiculous hyperbole, including the star hairdresser D’Logan Doyle (Louis Lovett), to the cheering hooray henry and henrietta types in the audience. Even the finalist hairdressing creations would be to most people ridiculous, as are some of the creations and installations that win the annual Turner prize. Are the real hairdressing competitions anything like this?

Among the actors, it’s good to see Angeline Ball who charmed us in The Commitments (1991), 30 years ago and still looking good as the salon owner Michelle and Pauline McLynn who insisted in the eponymous series that Father Ted would have a cup of tea, “Ah, you will, you will, you will”. Comedienne Enya Martin, from Giz a Laugh sketches plays the staff’s somewhat sluttish friend.

The Deadly Cuts salon team in film promotion poster (Image sourced: Internet)

As I noted earlier, most reviewers have given the film high marks for entertainment value – not so Peter Bradshaw, who dealt it savage cuts in the Guardian and gave it only two stars out of five. “With violent gangsters, a gentrification storyline and a hairdressing competition, this movie can’t figure out what it wants to be.” Really, Peter? It seems to me that the film is all those things and manages them well within an overall comedic form, something like Dario Fo and the problem is that you just don’t get it.

The incidental music is a series of lively hip hop by clips from different artists, including the mixed English-Irish language group Kneecap. These should have your foot tapping and body swaying as you follow the plot and the dialogue, smoothly edited from scene to scene, laughing and occasionally shocked.

The resolution of the Piglinstown community’s problems in the film is as drastic as unlikely, (however much some viewers may agree with it). But the film is a very enjoyable and if you haven’t seen it already, I strongly recommend you do so.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1“Deadly” was a common Dublin slang expression which has fallen out of use but would still be recognised by many; in the way that much counter-culture slang uses the opposite from an accepted term, “deadly” meant “excellent” and is being employed here in that sense.

2Notably at the moment threats of demolition to the street market and historical site of Moore Street, part of the traditional music pub the Cobblestone and to the laneway at the Merchant’s Arch.

3In fact, Finglas’ in one of the communities acknowledged in the credits, the other being Loughlinstown.

4Police force of the Irish state.

SOURCES

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11366736/

https://www.rte.ie/entertainment/movie-reviews/2021/1008/1251092-irish-comedy-deadly-cuts-is-a-cut-above-the-competition/

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/deadly_cuts

https://www.dublinlive.ie/news/celebs/giz-laugh-comedian-enya-martin-21694809

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2021/oct/06/deadly-cuts-review-ortonesque-dublin-comedy-thats-more-silly-than-funny

HOWARD ZINN — US INTELLECTUAL CRITIC AND ACTIVIST

By Geoff Cobb

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Like many Brooklyn Jews of his generation, Howard Zinn, an icon of the American left, questioned laissez fair American capitalism and American nationalist glorification of country. He was the author of “A People’s History of the United States,” a best seller which sold more than two million copies and inspired a generation of high school and college students to rethink American history. He was also a strong supporter of the civil rights movement and an opponent of the Vietnam war, as well as being a much-loved professor. Proudly, unabashedly radical, Zinn delighted in debating ideological foes, including his own college president, and in attacking conventional ideas, not the least that American history was a heroic march toward democracy.

One of the many different jacket covers for reprints of Zinn’s most famous book — this one abridged for teaching purposes (Image sourced: Internet)

Born Aug. 24, 1922, Howard Zinn grew up in Bedford Stuyvesant. His parents were Jewish immigrants who met in a factory. His father worked as a ditch digger and window cleaner during the Depression. His father and mother ran a neighborhood candy store for a brief time, barely getting by. For many years his father was in the waiter’s union and worked as a waiter for weddings and bar mitzvahs. “We moved a lot, one step ahead of the landlord,” Zinn recalled. “I lived in all of Brooklyn’s best slums.”

“NO LONGER A LIBERAL”

His parents were not intellectuals and Zinn recalled that there were no books in his home growing up. At some point his parents, knowing his interest in books, and never having heard of Charles Dickens, sent in a coupon with a dime each month to the New York Post and received one of ultimately twenty volumes of Dickens’ complete works. He became interested in fascism and began to read about its rise in Europe and to engage in political discussions and debates with some young Communists in his neighborhood. Zinn was radicalized thanks to a peaceful political rally in Times Square, where mounted police charged the marchers, hit Zinn knocked him unconscious. Zinn explained, “From that moment on, I was no longer a liberal, a believer in the self-correcting character of American democracy. . . The situation required not just a new president or new laws, but an uprooting of the old order, the introduction of a new kind of society—cooperative, peaceful, egalitarian.”

After graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School, Zinn became an apprentice shipfitter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he and a few other apprentices began to discuss books and strategize about how to improve their dangerous working conditions. Excluded from the craft unions of skilled workers, they formed their own Apprentice Association. On an overnight boat trip he organized to raise money for the association, he met his future wife, Roslyn Shechter, who shared Howard’s progressive views and was also a Jewish child of immigrants. Zinn joined the Army Air Corps in 1943, eager to fight the fascists, and became a bombardier in a B-17. While in the Air Force he was disturbed by the race and class inequality among the servicemen. It wasn’t until years after the war that he questioned the necessity of the bombs that he dropped.  But at the end of the war, back in New York, he deposited his medals in an envelope and wrote: “Never Again.”

View of students and faculty carrying signs during a strike by faculty and staff of Boston University, on Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, 1979. Historian Howard Zinn, then a professor at BU, is just visible in the centre foreground. (Photo by Spencer Grant/Getty Images)

“I would not deny that [WWII] had a certain moral core, but that made it easier for Americans to treat all subsequent wars with a kind of glow,” Zinn said. “Every enemy becomes Hitler.”

After the war, he went back to interview victims of the bombing, and later wrote about it in two books. His own experience and his subsequent interviews led him to conclude that the bombing had been ordered more to enhance the careers of senior officers than for any military imperative, and he later wrote about the ethics of bombing in the context of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Tokyo and Dresden, as well as Iraq.

Zinn and Roz married in 1944. While Zinn worked various jobs after the war, they lived on meager income in a rat-infested basement apartment in Brooklyn. Their daughter Myla was born in 1947 and Jeff in 1949. They moved to new public housing in 1949 and Zinn went to New York University for his B.A in history.

Thanks to the GI Bill, which paid the tuition of veterans, Zinn went to Columbia, where he earned an MA in 1952 with a thesis about a famous coalminers’ strike in Colorado, then obtained his PhD with a dissertation about the career in Congress of Fiorello LaGuardia, the reforming mayor of New York. He studied at Columbia under Richard Hofstadter who taught Zinn that American liberals were not as liberal as they thought they were, and that the two common threads in all American history were nationalism and capitalism.

PROFESSOR ZINN

In 1956, Zinn accepted a professorship at Spelman College, a traditionally black college for women in Atlanta, Georgia. Among his students were Maria Wright Edelman, the campaigner for children’s rights, and the future novelist Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple. At Spelman, he was a mentor to and later the historian of the Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee (SNCC), the radical student wing of the civil rights movement. Zinn took part in many civil rights protests, and he encouraged his students to join him in these marches, which angered Spelman’s president. Zinn angered the authorities at Spelman over his insistence that its students should not be trained to be ladies, but should be actively involved in politics. “I was fired for insubordination,” he recalled. “Which happened to be true.” Zinn moved to Boston University in 1964, where he quickly became an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War. He angered many Americans, including Boston University’s president, by traveling with the Rev. Daniel Berrigan to Hanoi to receive prisoners released by the North Vietnamese, and produced the antiwar books “Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal” (1967) and “Disobedience and Democracy” (1968). When Daniel Ellsberg, a previously gung-ho John F Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson administration official, came out against the war, he gave one copy of the Pentagon Papers (officially titled United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, the government’s secret history of the war) to Zinn and his wife, Roslyn. Zinn and Noam Chomsky edited what became known as the Mike Gravel edition, published in Boston in 1971-72 by the Beacon Press.

In 1980, he published his most successful work, A People’s History of the United States, which was a highly controversial revision of American history. Instead of the usual congratulatory tone of most American history textbooks, his work concentrated on what he saw as the genocidal depredations of Christopher Columbus, the blood lust of Theodore Roosevelt and the racial failings of Abraham Lincoln. He also highlighted the revolutionary struggles of impoverished farmers, feminists, laborers and resisters of slavery and war. Bruce Springsteen said the starkest of his many albums, “Nebraska,” drew inspiration in part from Mr. Zinn’s writings.

For decades, he poured out articles attacking war and government secrecy. 

When President Ronald Reagan bombed Tripoli in 1986, Zinn wrote: “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people for a purpose which is unattainable.” He denounced the invasion of Iraq and also criticized President Barack Obama’s intensification of the war in Afghanistan. He was sharply attacked in Israel and by many of his fellow American Jews for saying that war was morally the equivalent of terrorism.

Howard Zinn (Photo sourced: Internet)

Mr. Zinn retired in 1988, concluding his last class early so he could join a picket line. He invited his students to join him. Zinn also wrote three plays: “Daughter of Venus,” “Marx in Soho” and “Emma,” about the life of the anarchist Emma Goldman. All have been produced. Zinn died in 2010.

Zinn always believed in standing up to injustice and fighting for oppression. He said near the end of his life, “Where progress has been made, wherever any kind of injustice has been overturned, it’s been because people acted as citizens, and not as politicians. They didn’t just moan. They worked, they acted, they organized, they rioted if necessary to bring their situation to the attention of people in power. And that’s what we have to do today.”

End.

POSTSCRIPT from Rebel Breeze:

TRUMP ATTACKS ZINN AFTER LATTER’S DEATH

“If you want to read a real history book,” Matt Damon’s character tells his therapist, played by Robin Williams, in the 1997 film “Good Will Hunting,” “read Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History of the United States.’ That book will knock you on your ass.”

It is very unlikely that President Donald Trump knew who Howard Zinn was before he saw the name on his teleprompter. And it is even less likely that he’s read “A People’s History of the United States.” But that didn’t stop him from saying — at the White House Conference on American History on Thursday — that today’s “left-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools. It’s gone on far too long. Our children are instructed from propaganda tracts, like those of Howard Zinn, that try to make students ashamed of their own history.”

Quoted from https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/09/23/rights-long-war-howard-zinn-reaches-white-house

MOROCCO OCCUPATION USING DRONES AGAINST SAHARAWI RESISTANCE

POLISARIO FIGHTER WOUNDED IN DRONE-GUIDED ATTACK

JAIRO VARGAS MARTÍN@JAIROEXTRE

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

SPECIAL REPORT FROM THE SAHARAWI REFUGEE CAMPS IN TINDUF (ALGERIA)

(Report in https://www.publico.es/internacional/drones-marroquies-combatiente-saharaui-herido-guerras-marruecos-me-ataco-dron-gran-diferencia.html translated by D.Breatnach)

Mohamed Fadel states that he was seriously injured last April by a Moroccan drone, during the same action in which the head of the Saharawi National Guard was killed. Morocco is silent on the use of these unmanned devices that have become the obsession of the Polisario Front troops.

Mohamed Fadel, ‘Mundi’, in a tent in the Saharawi refugee camp of Bojador, in Tindouf, Algeria, on October 15.

Mohamed Fadel can say that he has firsthand experience of the changes between the two wars against Morocco in which he was wounded. The first was in 1985, when a shell fragment hit him in the arm. But he recovered and returned to the front in no time. The second time was the recent April one and “it was more serious,” he says, showing the marks on his body under his military jacket.

Polisario female fighters (Photo cred: Dominique Faget/ Getty)

Burns to his face, hands and arms, two scars the size of a coin on his right side and an incision of more than a foot long across the middle of his belly. “They had to open me up to remove the three pieces of shrapnel that I had inside. It took me three months to fully recover,” he explains in perfect Spanish. “It was a drone attack. That is now the big difference,” insists this seasoned 64-year-old Saharawi fighter.

But Mundi, as everyone knows him in the refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria, does not like to talk about two different wars. This, he says, the one that the Polisario Front declared on November 13 after 30 years of ceasefire, “is just a continuation of the previous one”, the one that began in 1975, after the military occupation of the former Spanish Sahara by part of Morocco. “The enemy is the same and the objective is the same: the referendum that has not been held and the independence of the Sahara. The only things that have changed are the means, the technology,” explains the Saharawi fighter, in the shade of a tent in the Bojador refugee camp.

“They are neither seen nor heard, but they are there and attack at any moment”

Moroccan drones are the worst nightmare in this new stage of hostilities, according to all the Sahrawi fighters interviewed by Público during the Polisario-organized trip to the camps last week.

“They are neither seen nor heard, but they are there and attack at any moment,” insists Mundi, although at the moment they have not shown any documentary evidence certifying the presence of armed or surveillance drones. The two parties accuse each other of using them, although both deny it, according to the latest report on this conflict by the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres.

Saharawi women living in Gastheiz (San Sebastian) in the south-west Basque Country demonstrate in solidarity with their people’s struggle and the Polisario Front (“askatu” = “free”) in May 2020. (Photo source: Internet)

An almost paranoid obsession

After each Sahrawi attack against the defensive Wall built by Morocco, all eyes are on the sky. Drones feel close almost always, even if they are not there, like an almost paranoid obsession. One of the main military directives of the Polisario is to stay away from cars when they halt, because they are their main target. When they believe that a drone is following behind, the old Sahrawi vehicles separate, stop and the unit that was on board runs away.

Morocco has embraced the purchase of Turkish-made armed drones, according to ‘Reuters’

These unmanned devices make up much of modern warfare and have been instrumental in recent conflicts. One of the most recent, for example, was the capture by Azerbaijani troops of Nagorno Karabakh last year. They defeated the Armenians thanks to Turkish-made drones, deploying practically no soldiers to the front, recalls the arms trade expert Tica Font, from the Delàs Center for Peace Studies.

Font emphasizes that Turkey, Azerbaijan’s main ally in the conflict, is one of the few countries that manufacture and sell drones capable of loading and firing missiles, along with the United States, Rabat’s main military supplier, followed by France and Spain.

Indeed, as Reuters recently revealed, Turkey has expanded the sale of armed drones to Morocco. Specifically, several sources cited by the British agency speak of purchase requests from Rabat of the Bayraktar TB2 model, of which they would have already received a first batch ordered in May.

The Moroccan Army attack on the protest camp at Guergat on 13 Nov. 2020 which sparked the long-delayed renewal of Polisario armed struggle (Photo source: Internet)

As we moved away, a drone followed us

Although that was two months after the attack Mundi is talking about. According to him, the bombing that wounded him was on April 11. “In broad daylight, at four in the afternoon. We were near the Wall, we had just carried out an operation against a Moroccan base and they responded. First with artillery and, later, when we were moving away, a drone followed us,” he described.

His vehicle stopped and his three companions followed the rules of dispersing, but Mundi had no time to get to safety. “The missile landed very close to the car and I was level with the front wheel,” he recalls. He claims that that afternoon he was able to see one of the aircraft in the air, although he did not see it fire. He believes there had to be more than one, “because eight or nine missiles were launched, and that cannot be carried by a single drone,” he maintained.

Mohamed Fadel ‘Mundi’, wounded Saharawi Fighter photographed in Saharawi refugee camp, Tinduf, Algeria 15 Oct 2021 (Photo cred: Jairo Vargas)

In that Moroccan bombardment, Mundi explained, the esteemed head of the Saharawi National Guard, Adah el Bendir, 61, a noted military strategist expert in engineering and combat, died. The Polisario announced the important loss. Morocco, for its part, opted for its most effective tactic since the resumption of hostilities: silence and indifference. Only the Alawite news portal Le Desk reported that an Israeli-made Harfang model drone had participated in the attack on El Bendir. Morocco did not even want to claim a goal in a war that does not exist for Rabat.

However, the Delàs Center expert warned that most of the marketed drones are for surveillance and monitoring, and that they do not need to carry weapons to attack a target. “Many have all kinds of built-in radar and sensors that send information to a central computer. With that data, you can open fire with precision from any platform, be it a ship, an aircraft or a ground unit. Tens of kilometers from the target” says Font.

Saharawi struggle supporters in Bordeaux, France on 11 December 2020 (AFP). France is a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council and is the main European state supporting Morocco.

That’s Le Desk‘s version of the attack in which Mundi was wounded and El Bendir killed. According to this Moroccan portal, the drone laser marked the target and an F-16 fighter launched the projectiles.

“They do not scare us, because with fear nothing is done in war. But there is a lot of uncertainty, a lot of anxiety and tension,” he affirms after 46 years as a soldier in the Saharawi people’s army.

Mundi is confident that sooner or later they will find the formula to detect and demolish the Moroccan aircraft. “We learned to fight them when they raised the wall, we learned to shoot down their planes and we learned to capture their armour,” he says. “We are still starting. At the moment we are using a tactic of attrition. We attacked bases and retreated. In the 80s we also started that way when they built the wall. Until 1984 we did not carry out large-scale attacks. War has its times,” he says. This one has already lasted more than 40 years.

End.

USEFUL LINKS

SOLIDARITY

Western Sahara Action Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/groups/256377861125569/?

Algargarat Media

OTHER MEDIA ARTICLES

Youth yearning for independence fuel Western Sahara clashes: https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-africa-united-nations-algeria-morocco-507429fe13915902668f589179ce0c67?

https://www.mondaq.com/human-rights/1021716/war-resumes-in-occupied-western-sahara-an-interview-with-polisario-representative-kamal-fadel

https://www.euronews.com/2020/11/17/sahrawi-arab-democratic-republic-declares-war-on-morocco-over-western-sahara-region

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/morocco-western-sahara-european-court-annuls-eu-deals

Dublin City Council Threatens Charity Food Tables

Diarmuid Mac Dubhghlais

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

DRHE threaten to clamp down on food tables feeding the homeless

Diarmuid Mac Dubhghlais

(Reading time: mins.)

Rebel Breeze editorial introduction: Through its agency Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, Dublin City Council recently threatened to close down the charity services delivering food and bottled water to homeless and hungry people. On the back of scandal about the alleged sexual predation of the deceased founder of the Inner City Homeless organisation, the Council issued a press statement which implied the threat, supported also by indications of Garda cooperation. Diarmuid Mac Dubhghlais, founder and organiser of the Éire Nua Food Initiative, one of the many charity services engaged in the work, has responded in a detailed article, reprinted here with the author’s permission.

THE 26-County State released figures on September 24 showing that there are currently 8,212 people accessing emergency accommodation in the State, a total of 6,023 adults and 2,189 children who are homeless.

A homeless person’s bed outdoors, cardboard as insulation underneath sleeping bag, this one located under the arch of the GPO (the building that was the HQ of the 1916 Rising). (Photo: Éire Nua Initiative)

These figures of homelessness have long been disputed by many others who work within the homeless sector as the State refuses to count those who are couch-surfing, or otherwise sharing accommodation with friends/family. The vast majority of the nation’s homeless are in the capital with 4,220 people accessing accommodation. 953 families are homeless in Ireland, according to the report.

Homelessness charities have warned that more families face losing their homes in the coming months due to private rental market constricts and evictions rise. This has already been borne out with reports of new faces showing up at the many soup runs/food tables that are in the city centre.
Pat Doyle, CEO of Peter McVerry Trust, said “Any increase is disappointing because it means more people impacted by homelessness. However, we are now at the busiest time of year for social housing delivery and we would hope that the number of people getting access to housing will significantly increase in the coming months.”

Dublin Simon CEO Sam McGuiness cited the toll on the physical and mental health of people trapped in long-term homelessness. He said: “This population is desperate to exit homelessness and yet they are spending longer than ever before in emergency accommodation. This group deserves far better lives than the ones they are currently living. We see first-hand the toll this is taking in the increased demands for our treatment services, counselling services and the increase in crisis counselling interventions. Outcomes for people in emergency accommodation will not improve until they have a secure home of their own. Until this happens there is scant hope of a better future for this vulnerable group.”

MANY CHILDREN NOW SPEND THEIR FORMATIVE YEARS IN HOMELESSNESS”

Éire Nua food initiative founder Diarmuid Mac Dubhghlais pointed out at a homelessness protest that many children now spend their formative years in homelessness and have no real idea of what it is like to have a traditional “Sunday dinner” or their own bedroom/play area. This will severely impact their personalities far into the future.

A report published on September 14 by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) found that lone parents and their children account for 53% of all homeless families. The report said that lone parents and their children are much more likely to experience poor housing than other household types. The report also highlights the disadvantages experienced by young people, migrants, people with disabilities and Travellers in the Irish housing system. Researchers looked at six dimensions of housing adequacy – accessibility, affordability, security of tenure, cultural adequacy, quality, and location. They found that less than 25% of lone parents reported home-ownership, compared with 70% of the total population.
Lone parents had higher rates of affordability issues (19%) when compared to the general population (5%) and were particularly vulnerable to housing quality problems such as damp and lack of central heating (32% compared to 22%).

Ethnic minority groups had a significantly higher risk of over-crowding, the research found. Over 35% of Asian/Asian Irish people, 39% of Travellers and over 40% of Black/Black Irish people live in over-crowded accommodation, compared to 6% of the total population. Almost half of all migrants in Ireland live in the private rental sector, compared to 9% of those born in Ireland. Migrants, specifically those from Eastern Europe (28%) and non-EU countries (27%), are more likely to live in over-crowded conditions.

One of the queues for free food and water at a charity food table outside the GPO building. (Photo: Éire Nua Initiative)

The research found that almost one third of persons living with a disability experience housing quality issues, compared to 21% of those without a disability. Researchers said there remains a real risk that levels of homelessness will worsen after the pandemic restrictions are lifted and they raised concern about rents increasing faster than mean earnings in Dublin and elsewhere. In 2020, mean monthly rent in Ireland was estimated to be 31% of mean monthly earnings. “Adequate housing allows people to not only survive but thrive and achieve their full potential, whilst leading to a more just, inclusive and sustainable society.”

Meanwhile, the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) said on September 28 that it is to seek greater regulation of organisations providing services for homeless people in the capital as soon as possible in the wake of the Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) controversy. Dublin City Council’s deputy chief executive Brendan Kenny, who has responsibility for the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) in his role, said that due to the high number of informal homeless organisations set up in recent years there is “currently no vetting, no controls, on many people who are actually interacting directly with homeless people”. Kenny said he doesn’t want “over-regulation” to lead to certain groups disbanding but added: “At the moment there’s nothing and that’s not good enough.”

In a statement, the DRHE said it is “strongly of the view that greater regulation, vetting, and scrutiny is required for organisations/charities that set themselves up as service providers for homeless persons, including the provision of on-street food services”. “Several such organisations not funded by the DRHE have come into existence in recent years and the DRHE and our partner agencies will be endeavouring in the coming months to bring the necessary expanded scrutiny and regulation to all such organisations.”

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said there will be a review of Garda vetting procedures for the homelessness sector. Kenny said a report commissioned by Dublin City Council into the impact of unvetted charities is near completion and will provide further insight on the matter.
It has been pointed out several times over the past four months that the DRHE, DCC and others have long tried to close the soup runs/food tables in the city centre and many now fear that what has been revealed through the ICHH debacle will be used to close many of these down. The DRHE are ignoring the fact that it is their rules and the oversight bodies recognised by them that has let the homeless down, not the food tables. Much of the work done by the food tables is done in the open and in full public view.

The issues highlighted through the ongoing ICHH investigation show it is what went on behind closed doors that is the problem. Those in oversight positions didn’t do their jobs; people were put in positions of authority without relevant qualifications. The DRHE, DCC and the police should look to how they can improve safety within their “regulated” organisations before seeking to regulate the volunteers who serve a need without any remuneration.

Many of the volunteers at food tables would have difficulty meeting the requirements of police vetting as some would be former addicts, and many others have no desire to become registered charities.

Again, it was pointed out by Diarmuid that many of these “regulated” charities will have high overheads such as transport insurance, maintenance and fuel costs. Some will have CEO wages and petty cash expenses to cover before any donations can be spent on the service user, whereas the Éire Nua food initiative and some others do not seek cash donations. All is done voluntarily and any costs are borne by the volunteers themselves. He cited that many registered charities are little more than businesses operating within the homelessness sector.

Diarmuid has been quoted in the past citing that “there are now many businesses making huge money out of those who are in homelessness” and “that the volunteer ethos that surround many food tables is not to be found within some charities”.

IMPROVE THE STANDARD OF REGISTERED ACCOMMODATION, NOT SHUT DOWN THE VOLUNTARY ORGANISATIONS”

Kenny said the large number of pop-up soup runs mean some people are less likely to engage with the larger charities funded by the DRHE and in turn, less likely to engage with their support services. The DRHE views sleeping in a homeless hostel, rather than on the street, as a “much safer” option. However, he acknowledged that some homeless people don’t want to stay in a hostel, for a variety of reasons.

“We fully understand that but we’re strongly of the view that a hostel bed is absolutely safer and more hygienic than sleeping in a sleeping bag on the side or a street or in a tent. We know there are some people that just won’t go to a hostel – it may be that they have mental health issues.
“We are also aware that some people would prefer to stay in a tent in order to stay involved in drugs and be taking drugs because they may not be able to do it in the hostel.” Kenny added that while hostels provide shelter and food, they “wouldn’t be the nicest place to sleep” but are still “far safer” than being on the street.

He totally ignores the many testimonies from residents, former residents and former workers within these hostels of the theft of personal property, the numerous assaults on residents by other residents, the bullying of residents by some staff members, low hygiene standards, open drug and alcohol abuse and the arbitrary nature operating within some hostels where a resident can be denied access on the whim of staff.

It is incumbent of the State, DRHE and the various councils to bring the standard of these types of accommodation up to a better standard and NOT try to shut those organisations who look after the many who fear staying within State accommodation.

Kenny also noted that sometimes tourists or those who are not homeless queue up to get food from the soup runs. He said fights also break out sometimes. “We’ve come across situations of tourists maybe going up to a food van and getting food, and maybe other people that are not in need of services. And the reality is that anybody that’s sleeping in a hostel, food is provided for them so there is not a shortage of food in the hostel services.

“[Soup runs] do attract a lot of people. I know there are times when large numbers of vulnerable people congregate and you end up with disputes and fights as well.”

Éire Nua free food service workers with table, outside the GPO. (Photo: Éire Nua Initiative)

On the issue of tourists queuing for food, he may well be right, but as the Éire Nua group has pointed out, “we feed the homeless AND hungry, we will not discriminate or question anyone who stands waiting for some food”.

Also pointed out by many residents of various hostels is the small proportions of meals given; while enough to sustain it is often not enough to keep that empty stomach feeling at bay.
And for the five to six years that Diarmuid has volunteered alone, with the Éire Nua group or on another soup run, he or other volunteers have never had to call the police. On the few occasions where trouble has occurred, it is often rectified within seconds as the majority of people awaiting food know that: (1) the volunteers are their friends and out there to help them and (2) causing disruption to the smooth running of the tables can result in being denied food.
The final word to Kenny from the Éire Nua food initiative: “Let the DRHE look to itself and those under its umbrella before looking to those outside their group; let them ensure the regulations in force within are enforced. Do not blame those who volunteer out of the goodness of their hearts for the sins of those who worked for them.”

End.

EDITORIAL COMMENT:

It may be that the primary concerns of the Dublin municipal authorities and the Gardaí are to remove the visible signs of poverty and homelessness, rather than protection of the vulnerable among these. DCC Brendan Kenny’s comments in mid-August against the proliferation of homeless people living in tents may be seen as a concern that the charity food services constitute an unwelcome reflection on the performance of the Irish State and the municipal authorities of its capital city, visible not only to the city’s inhabitants — at all levels of society — but also to its visitors.

USEFUL LINKS

https://www.thejournal.ie/drhe-call-for-more-regulation-of-homeless-organisations-5560886-Sep2021/

Kenny previous comments against homeless in tents: https://www.joe.ie/news/dublin-city-council-ceo-criticised-following-comments-homeless-tents-dublin-728819

The Inner City Homeless scandal: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/homeless-charity-faces-uncertain-future-following-death-of-co-founder-1.4688838