WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH WOLVES?

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 8 mins.)

The wolf was hunted to extinction in Ireland during English occupation1 – in fact, a similar bounty was paid by the colonial administration on delivery of Catholic priests and resistance fighters as was paid on a wolfskin2. They were extirpated in most of western Europe and in large parts of the USA and plans to reintroduce them run into lots of opposition. But really, what is the problem with wolves?

The canine with closest ancestry to our domestic dog is the wolf, the Eurasian and American subspecies – close enough to our dog to mate and produce viable offspring – and the divergence from a common ancestor is estimated to have occurred 11,00 to 16,00 years ago.3 The wolf is an apex predator usually in a pack ruled by an alpha male and alpha female, the only ones permitted to mate and their offspring are cared for by the whole pack.

Highly social, adaptable to different terrain and weather, the wolf is a highly-intelligent animal able to travel long distances and fierce in defence or attack. Many people might fear wolves through imagining they or their children being attacked by them – and certainly there are enough childhood stories to feed that fear — but the main opposition to their conservation or reintroduction does not come from that source. Nor is the source those pet owners, particularly of weak or diminutive descendants of the ancient canine stock, like those for example in Los Angeles who complain that a coyote ate their toy poodle.

Wolves playing among themselves in juxtaposition to humans in Gorbeia, the largest natural park in the south-western Basque Country. The presence of wolves there is mentioned in only some of the tourist promotional literature and no explanation was provided with the youtube posting of this remarkable video.

The main opposition, and by far the most powerful, are the livestock farmers4. And their fears are far from irrational. Wolves are top-range predators easily capable of killing a sheep, pig or goat and, as a pack, of killing cows and even horses too5. Most livestock farmers are not going to be convinced by arguments in favour of biodiversity when they largely favour one or two breeds of meat or dairy animal, selectively-bred for high production relative to maintenance cost.

And the bigger the livestock farmer, the more realistic his problem with wolf conservation — or worse, wolf reintroduction. The bigger the herd, the more widely it is dispersed for grazing, the more difficult to protect. Paid guards with high-powered rifles are only effective by day. Corralling by night requires electrified fencing and even they are not infallible.6

So how did people manage before? In some parts of Western Europe, there have been wolves in living memory and people raising livestock in those areas made a reasonable living. How did they do it?

The answer is dogs7. Not the poodle or spaniel or terrier type but big strong dogs capable of fighting wolves and, in the case of some breeds, more than a match in a one-on-one contest. The studded or spiked collar was invented to shield the dog’s vulnerable neck and throat.

PROTECTION FROM WOLVES BY DOG

In a video from the Basque Country I viewed some years ago, some villagers talked about wolves and the mastiff dogs they had and these are discussed also in a video in Spanish included here with shepherds from the Zamora region, in Castille and León, in central Spain. This type of dog is not a sheep or cattle herder8 but rather a livestock guard; living around the livestock, it knows them and does not permit predators of any size to approach them. In some parts of the world and in the case of some breeds, nor will they permit the approach of any humans, other than their masters and their known associates. Livestock guardian dogs are not all mastiffs but all are typically big and strong breeds, hardy to the prevalent weather conditions typical to their area, socialised to the herd animals and therefore at ease with them (and vice versa), protective of the livestock and inhibited from injuring or killing them, even when hungry. They are comfortable enough with their owners (although reputedly some do not enjoy petting) and his or her close associates, with some breeds also very protective of their owners.

Vikham LGD from Pakistan (Image sourced: Internet)

There are around fifty currently known breeds around the world to fill this role9 including: Akbash and Aksaray Malaklisi of Turkey, Bakharawal of India, Beauceron of France, Cane di Manara of Sicily, Estrella Mountain dog of Portugal, Georgian Mountain Dog, Great Pyrenees and Pyrenean Mastiff, Greek Shepherd, Himalayan Sheepdog, Karakachan of Bulgaria, Mazandrani of Iran, Mucuchies of Venezuela, Slovak Cuvac, Vikhan Sheepdog of Pakistan. The Irish Wolfhound was probably not one, it seems to have been primarily a hunting chase dog, though its name suggests it might have been used to hunt wolves too.10

2019 interviews in Castillian Spanish with shepherds who use Mastiffs livestock guard dogs in Zamora region, central Spain.

It should be born in mind that in many parts of the world, wolves are not the only mammalian apex predators; big cats and bears compete with them; in those regions guard dogs have to be and are willing and able to confront those species too. Despite the size and armament differential, a good guard dog will confront such predators displaying extreme threat in appearance and sound (and possibly also summoning assistance). Livestock guard dogs have been known to fight to the death but bear or even lions will usually back off to seek easier prey. Besides, a flock needs a minimum of two livestock guard dogs and and there might be more.11

These breeds are mostly comparatively rare now in many parts of the world, where apex predators have been extirpated, since their function has largely been dispensed with, or they are maintained as pets or competition show dogs.

Carpathian LGD (Image sourced: Internet)

None of the Basque villagers interviewed had mastiffs any longer, although one Basque livestock farmer informed the interviewer that his father had two. However, in some other parts of Iberia, the mastiff breed is still active as a working dog and a shepherd in Zamora (Castille and León autonomous community, central Spain) with a flock of 450 sheep has five mastiffs; all five might not be necessary but as he explains, one must have a working reserve in case of injury, sickness etc among the guard dogs. He spends €5,000 p.a on the dogs. The shepherds there have no interest in the show specimens of the breed saying that they are not being judged by their working ability. “If a wolf sees a show dog, it laughs,” says another shepherd. “If our dogs see one, they’d laugh too.” “It is impossible for the necessary qualities of a working dog to be judged in show environment”, says another shepherd, pointing out too that a mastiff that is too heavy cannot run, thereby rendering it it useless for guarding the flock.12 The dogs also need to learn from experience how to respond not just to an individual wolf but to a pack, where individual members of the pack will seek to lure the dog away towards others in ambush, or to detach it from the prey which others will then attack.

Iberian Mastiffs LGD with sheep (Image sourced: Internet)

A wikipedia entry on Livestock Guard Dogs links their use with wolf coexistence: “With the reintroduction of predators into natural habitats in Europe and North America, environmentalists have come to appreciate Livestock Guard Dogs because they allow sheep and cattle farming to coexist with predators in the same or nearby habitats. Unlike trapping and poisoning, LGDs seldom kill predators; instead, their aggressive behaviors tend to condition predators to seek unguarded (thus, non-farm animal) prey. For instance, in Italy’s Gran Sasso National Park, where LGDs and wolves have coexisted for centuries, older, more experienced wolves seem to “know” the LGDs and leave their flocks alone.”13

Adult Akbash LGD & juvenile Central Asian Ovcharkas guarding beef calves, Sublette County, Wyoming, USA. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Some Basque and Spanish shepherds seem to agree and are prepared to coexist with the wolf, using more traditional methods of livestock farming, corralling their stock by night with dogs to protect on duty as they are also by day.14 With a different apex predator in Australia, the widely-hated by farmers dingo, a few farmers are seeking to coexist with the predator against the opposition of the majority of their colleagues, in areas where dead dingoes may be seen suspended from trees or even roadside structures.

Dingoes are pack animals in which only the alpha pair breed (like wolves) and one of the cattle farmers states that dingo extermination attempts break up the pack, resulting in more individuals breeding. He also relates that kangaroos eat down the vegetation which competes with his cattle but also contributes to drying out of the land. When he stopped trying to eliminate the dingo, he says, they preyed on the kangaroo which in turn resulted in more surviving vegetation and land in better condition.15

Dingoes (Canis familiaris dingo), Apex wild predator, Australia (Photo credit: Jurgen & Christine Sohns/Alamy)

A shepherd in the Zamora range states too that the wolf keeps down the numbers of wild boar and deer and generally across Europe these ungulates are reported to be on the increase (the white-tailed deer also in the USA). Boar are well-known in some regions for raiding cultivated fields, trampling growing plants to reach what they find edible, well able to knock down types of fencing, squeeze through gaps and so on. Increasingly on the Internet one can find videos of wild boar, often accompanied by their litter, foraging in villages and towns (in one video, even successfully overturning a trash dumper to feed on the contents). These types of ungulates contribute their own kind of environmental damage in addition in some cases to nuisance to humans16.

The Zamoran shepherd comments also that deer, a natural prey of wolves, often carry brucelosis and infect cattle, which in turn is is transmissible to humans and treated as a serious disease. In cattle it results in loss of weight, abortion of fetuses and lower milk production and as the shepherd says, state control procedures require the destruction of the whole herd upon finding of some infected animals. Apart from anything else, clearly this measure can have serious economic consequences for the farmer and for the whole state in question.17

If wolf conservation and reintroduction is be successful in the long-term, it will require livestock farmers to have smaller herds and a partnership with herd guard dogs, as well as other defensive means. This entails the irony that the expansion in herd protector dogs results in protection for wolves, in preventing their cousins from causing depredation in the herds, which would entail reprisals from humans.

It may be that farmers will occasionally lose a lamb or a calf or a pig from their ranges to a predator – but they lose occasional animals anyway, to pests, disease and mishap. Their stock animals will probably be healthier and tend towards the sturdier types.

Yes, but smaller herds? Well, is it not widely accepted (except by big farmers and banks) that we breed too many meat animals, with huge emission of greenhouse gasses and lots of waste? Smaller herds would surely be environmentally welcome.

Map of Grey Wolf distribution in the present (green) and past (red). (Source: Wikipedia, Grey Wolf distribution by Country)

CONSERVATION AND REINTRODUCTION PROGRAMS

Reintroduction methods for wolves vary from releasing adult animals from captivity, whether alone or as a pair, to placing captive-bred pups within a wild litter, when according to reports they are fostered without difficulty by the wolf bitch.

The problems involved in projects of conservation and reintroduction are not small. The wild mammalian apex predators can compete with and threaten the other mammalian apex predator – the human. Direct predation on humans by the other land-based predators is statistically low; fatal encounters for humans are much, much rarer than those for the other mammal involved and, when occurring, usually arise from self-defence by the animal or defence of kind (especially of the young), along with rabid animals. So, in general, leave them alone and they’ll leave us alone.

Still of a Mexican Wolf Reintroduction from video (Video credit: Arizona Game & Fish Dept. 2018)

OPPOSITION

But leaving our livestock alone is a different proposition entirely and even more so if our livestock and livestock management systems have reduced the wolves’ natural prey, both in number and variety. And we tend to do that. Our systems tend to reduce forest to favour grassland for our domesticated grazers, which reduces or wipes out forest prey. Then we set out to reduce or even eliminate the wild grazers competing with our domesticated ones. Even when we develop forests we tend to favour monoculture or restrict to a few species of commercial timber with high turnover in comparatively shorter time.

Hunting and fishing reserve managers kill predators ranging from hawks, eagles, and owls to stoats, badgers, wolverines, foxes, otters, bears, felines and wolves; legal and illegal means of killing predators include shooting, trapping and poisoning. But those practices also favour only those particular wild species valued for hunting, often edging out a diversity of other species which are now faced with “unfair competition” from the “sport” species, resulting in damage to diversity and to the particular eco-system.

Large-scale elimination of prey animals in order, for example, to protect crops, also reduces the natural prey available to predators. Growing only particular kinds of trees will result in quicker turnover and or greater profits but also in monoculture forests giving little shelter to diverse wild life.

For good reasons as explained by their supporters, the presence of apex predators affects not only their prey and other predators but also vegetation, which in turn affects other animals, birds and fish (through their effect on water courses) – in fact, a top-down effect on the whole local environment which has been shown to beneficial.

The objectors argue that large mammalian predators can cause significant problems to humans and most significant among those humans are the livestock farmers. They, ranging from rancher livestock operations of thousands of animals, down through the medium enterprises of some hundred head, to small farmers with up to a sore or so, are the main source of opposition to wolf conservation or – what are we thinking of? — reintroduction.

The opposition based on fear of attack on person, largely without contemporary logic but relying on ignorance and some folklore, can be educated and managed by conservationists but the livestock farmers are a different proposition. Those who rely on livestock to make a decent living and those companies for which it is big business, along with their shareholders and banks, are not going to be easily persuaded. The smaller or even medium-sized concerns are potentially more amenable to convincing, especially if aided by state grants to offset losses to predation18. The evidence is that for them a change to investing in livestock guard dogs would be manageable and very possibly more emotionally rewarding19.

Big business is another matter. Grants would have to be substantial to convince them and, in any case, ecological grants to big business have not turned out to be of benefit to the environment overall. Quite crudely, big business will need to be forced to reduce the size of its operations or be put out of business one way or another; how that may be achieved is another day’s discussion. Meanwhile, progressing with smaller and medium-sized livestock farmers will make some difference and play an important educational role in what is good for the environment and for us.

NATURAL REINTRODUCTION AND VIABILITY

Not all reintroduction is human-initiated. In the Pyrenean region of the Iberian peninsula, in areas devoid for years of the native wolf, they speak of the appearance of the Italian wolf (sub-species) slightly divergent from its Iberian cousin), though none of those migrants having yet bred and thereby established a pack. This situation is leading to increased discussion around the pros and cons of wolf conservation and herd protection there.

The wolf is protected in Iberia and though classified as game species in the northern part of the Spanish state20 a ban on hunting wolf was introduced even there in February of this year (2021). This had been agreed some years earlier by the Euskadi regional Government but not implemented, until conservationists (with the support of some traditional shepherds took a successful court case to force the implementation.21 Compensation is paid for livestock killed by wolf or bear but in uneven amounts and by different systems across the state.

In the case of achieving general agreement and support for reintroduction, there remains the problem of viability of the reintroduced animals. Although the White-Tailed Eagle reintroduction to Ireland has been successful, reintroduced Golden Eagles struggle to survive and expand on the amount of suitable prey available to them. Wolves might not fare much better, once they had reduced the red and roe deer populations in the country.

However, a puzzle for us is that the earlier well-referenced wolf existence in Ireland predates that of the deer, raising questions on what were its main prey animals at that time. Perhaps it was the wild boar and certainly the presence of the torc is attested to in many Irish place-names.

In a number of other European countries, wolves could probably build sustainable populations preying on deer and boar, in addition to rodents and lagomorphs, along with some waterfowl (in particular ground-nesting ones such as the mallard). Swans in Ireland for example would presumably have to change their nesting habits to more isolated reed-beds and islands (though wolves are good swimmers).

In countries with large wild areas the problems of wolf and human interaction are reduced but Ireland is not such a country. The success of such a project in Ireland would require substantial areas apart from bogland being given over to wildness, with substantial forest coverage (the benefits of the latter are discussed below). Sheep flocks and cattle herds would need to be smaller and require guarding by day and night; the benefits of smaller livestock herds and a mechanism for their protection has been discussed earlier here.

Also required would be a rigorous enforcement of predator protection legislation which does not have a good record in Ireland (see http://trinitynews.ie/2016/10/farmers-wildlife-freak-outs-and-facts/) and and a compensation scheme for farmers in case of livestock loss (or indeed cultivated land loss to wilding habitat, multi-species deciduous forest planting, etc).

SUPPORT — WHY BOTHER?

The financial and educational benefits of eco-tourism are often quoted in defence of reintroduction of wolves and other terrestrial apex predators and, for some, those are sufficient justification. Eco-tourists are particularly interested in seeing apex predators and even hearing them, especially in the case of wolves. Certainly providing for such tourism is a niche which can permit a living to be made from management of low livestock numbers or even land without any livestock at all. As such it can be a convincing argument for small herding communities or for individual farms in livestock country.

Another reason quoted is the psychological and scientific benefits of living more in tune with the natural world and, though hard to quantify, in a world heading for ecological disaster such potential benefit should not be ignored. Which is what it is likely to be, however, in communities and enterprises focused on surviving in the present (not to mention those for whom extracting maximum profits is the only viable reason for any undertaking).

Another and more tangible benefit of encouraging mammalian apex predator conservation or reintroduction is the early and visible environmental improvement resulting in places where it has been tried. Wild grazers compete with livestock grazers, often more efficiently than livestock can manage. Not only that but they will graze areas being left for regrowth by the farmer. Such overgrazing results in arid ground, retaining little moisture, soil erosion and can even end in desertification. What long-term benefit to the environment if reducing domestic herds results in more and more land being overgrazed?

In addition, there are the problems of infection of livestock and in turn humans by diseases carried by wild ungulates (e.g. deer, bison, antelope, boar, wild goats, mountain sheep22).

The large predator can be the solution. Wolves and other apex predators keep down the numbers of wild ungulates, keeping them also on the move (in fear of predators), allowing vegetation to recover from grazing, in turn assisting moisture retention in the soil. These changes in turn benefit many other animals and plants, from invertebrates up to birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

Previously to wolf reintroduction to Yellowstone, the moose had only the occasional bear to worry about and they chewed their way through branch and leaf; rangers had to cull large numbers every year and even so there was substantial deforestation and large numbers of moose would die during severe winters, only to be quickly replenished the following year. Only one family of beavers was seen at work (their food of shrubs and low trees by the water margins was being eaten by the moose).

Twenty-five years after the reintroduction of wolves, willow and aspen had recovered in some areas of Yellowstone, beaver colonies had increased 14-fold, song-birds had recovered and some new species were being seen. The soil is retaining greater moisture. There are arguments about how much these changes are due to the action of the wolves but most experts grant the wolves at least some credit while some others give them a lot.23

Yellowstone Park protected wolf pack (Photo credit: Doug Smith, via National Park Service)

So that’s good news for the environment and the wolf, not so good for the moose, right? Actually, it seems to be good news for the moose too, with lower die-off for moose in winter,24 signalling a general improvement in health of the stock surviving predation.

When the numbers of grazers is controlled, tree seedlings of willow and alder get a chance to grow on the edges and banks of bodies of freshwater, which tends to control soil erosion on banks and reduce flooding. When grazers are prevented or restricted from eating seedlings, new trees survive to extend the woods and forests or to replace fallen trees and harvested timber.

Beaver in Yellowstone National Park (Photo crdt: Neal Herbert, National Park Service). Although wolves will kill and eat beaver if they can, the wolves also control Moose which were a greater threat to the beaver, eating the woody waterside vegetation upon which the beaver depends for food.

Many ecologists and forestry experts blame the white-tailed deer for changes across large parts of the USA, involving reductions in canopy-cover, reductions in diversity of tree species and general forestry maintenance (to say nothing of failure to extend)25.

For the ecology of the world, the thinning out of wild grazers is perhaps the most valuable service rendered by large mammalian predators although other factors need to be taken into account, including pattern and variety of planting and management, domestic herd sizes, along with of course responses to insect and fungal pests.26

It has long been known too that many species of trees prevent or restrict soil erosion and restrict flooding by holding water margins and, in some cases such as mangroves, sap the effects of hurricanes coming from the seaward side, along with tidal waves.

More crucially, trees produce oxygen and consume or hoard carbon. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen”.

We all know that we need oxygen to breathe and also to combine with other elements, such as carbon dioxide, to produce water.27 But the problem of excess loose carbon dioxide is recognised as one of the most serious confronting the eco-system at this moment, with carbon dioxide emissions creating part of the “greenhouse” cover over the earth, contributing hugely to global warming. This process in return is causing sea-levels to rise and also to warm, causing mass deaths in seas, along with big changes in weather systems with devastating effects for human and animal populations.

The wolf can also play a role in mediating the effect of other predators and has done so in part of the USA with regard to the coyote, similar to what the dingo has done to the European-introduced red fox, which has become a problem in Australia.

American mink in Ireland, an invasive versatile semi-aquatic predator (Photo sourced: Irish News). Could the wolf help control this pest?

In Ireland another introduced species, more likely through escape from fur farms, the american mink, is also a problem and is spreading.28 It may be that the wolf can play a helpful role there too, along with having some effect in controlling that other american, the grey squirrel which, in turn, might assist the red squirrel’s return to areas from which it has long been absent.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Though indications exist of some hunting of wolves by humans in Ireland, in England, wolf persecution was enforced by legislation and the last wolf was killed in the early 16th century during the reign of Henry VII (see Wikipedia on the Eurasian Wolf). Ireland was invaded by British-based forces in 1169 and over time native forces were defeated and the whole country came under English rule until partly independent in 1921.

2For priests: “An 1709 Penal Act demanded that Catholic priests take the Oath of Abjuration and recognise the Protestant Queen Anne as Supreme Head of the Church of England and, by implication, in Ireland. Priests who refused to conform were arrested and executed. ……….The reward rates for capture varied from £50–100 for a bishop, to £10–20 for the capture of an unregistered priest; substantial amounts of money at the time. The work was dangerous, and some priests fought in self-defence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priest_hunter

For Wolves: “In AD 1652 the Commissioners of the Revenue of Cromwell’s Irish Government set substantial bounties on wolves, £6 for a female, £5 for a male, £2 for a subadult and 10 shillings for a cub”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolves_in_Ireland

For Resistance fighters: https://www.historyireland.com/early-modern-history-1500-1700/some-days-two-heads-and-some-days-four/

3This estimate relies on assumptions on the mutation rate, which has not been directly estimated for domestic dogs (see https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982215004327#:~:text=The%20divergence%20between%20the%20wolf,directly%20estimated%20for%20domestic%20dogs). As the paper discusses, this is a highly-contentious area of study with some theories proposing the existence of domestic canids as early as 36,000 years ago and the appearance of the domestic canid predating that of the current grey wolf.

4In some parts of the USA and Western Europe, where hunting big game is a widespread activity, fear of competition with the wolf in hunting season is also an important factor and one where “the common man” may come into conflict with those wishing to protect or reintroduce the wolf.

5It is worth noting that wild grazing mammals are capable of defence against hunting canines by outrunning them and, usually as a last resort, by fighting them with horn, antler, tusk, teeth or hoof. In turn, wolves have to plan, ambush, select targets and coordinate attacks. Old and very young grazers are vulnerable but calves and foals are pushed by their mothers to stand minutes after birth; in an hour or two, they can run. A wolf injured in attack cannot travel with the pack and will miss out on most food and, if failing to heal rapidly enough, will die. There is a constantly flexing relationship between the survival mechanisms of both prey and predator.

6In the first place they need to be high enough to prevent wolves leaping or scrambling over them, also proof against digging under. And since anecdotal evidence relates livestock guard dogs being willing to stand the pain of electric shock if sufficient stimulus is provided to get out of an electrified enclosure, one must assume that wolves will develop that same resolution at some point. Finally, there is the issue of possible weather damage and failure of the power supply to the barrier.

7In some situations donkeys and alpacas have also been used with success as livestock guard dogs, though a Spanish shepherd commented that the donkey only functions with cattle, since they respond to its warning, while sheep ignore it. (See also https://www.jandohner.com/single-post/2016/05/01/the-other-livestock-guardians-llamas-and-donkeys and https://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/guard-donkey-zbcz1310). None of these are capable of physically defending against a canine pack, however.

8There are a few types that can combine the characteristics of herding and guard, such as the Beauceron but in general livestock dog breeds specialise in either guarding or herding. In Australia, where the apex land predator is not the wolf but the smaller and lighter Dingo, some herding breeds also act as livestock guard dogs.

9Two are known to be extinct: The Alpine Mastiff and the Molossus.

10It seems that this breed was so valued abroad that Irish chieftains and English occupiers exported them, so that no originals of the breed remain. The current breed that goes by that name, a gentle attractive dog of high stature, is derived by cross-breeding. Wikipedia: “Based on the writings of others, Graham had formed the opinion that a dog resembling the original wolfhound could be recreated through using the biggest and best examples of the Scottish Deerhound and the Great Dane, two breeds which he believed had been derived earlier from the wolfhound. Into the mix went a Borzoi (“Korotai”), who had proved his wolf hunting abilities earlier in his native Russia. For an outbreed a “huge shaggy dog” was added, which may have possibly been a Tibetan Mastiff.

11https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Livestock_guardian_dog

12https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GScuF2ZEGOA

13https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Livestock_guardian_dog

14See videos in Spanish from Zamora and the Basque Government region (latter in References & Resources)

15See Sources and References at article end for items in relation to dingo conservation,

16Apart from upending trash containers and raiding farms, boar may also attack humans, especially in the case of a sow accompanied by her litter and is capable of inflicting mortal wounds. Should boar become widespread in very close contact with humans, children might be attacked too.

17https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/animal_diseases/brucellosis/downloads/bruc-facts.pdf

18A Zamoran shepherd says he receives no grant and though not asking for one, says he should be supplied free of charge the ID chip he is required by law to embed in his dogs. On the other hand the Euskadi regional Government agreed to pay a grant and other regions have done so too, in areas where the wolf and bear are known to be in residence, without having to prove or even claim a kill of any of their stock.

19Partnership with working dogs is likely to be therapeutic in itself and surely wholly preferable to setting out traps, poison bait (which kills other predators and scavengers too) and shooting, including even killing cubs. Besides, break up the pack and more wolves will mate and bear litters.

20Ironically that status can serve to protect predators from extermination and since it was given that status in Poland, the wolf population increased substantially (see Wikipedia the Eurasian Wolf).

21https://www.eitb.eus/es/noticias/sociedad/videos/detalle/5937840/video-el-gobierno-vasco-incluira-al-lobo-catalogo-especies-amenazadas/

22In some parts of the world these would also included wild horses, camels, llamas, alpaca …. See earlier mention of brucellosis

23https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/csp2.413

24Ibid.

25https://blog.nature.org/science/2013/08/22/too-many-deer/

26https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10342-011-0523-3

27https://www.savatree.com/whytrees.html

28p.4, Mink distribution and populations, https://www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/IWM40.pdf

SOURCES & REFERENCES:

The Eurasian wolf: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasian_wolf

Grey Wolf previous and current population around the world: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_gray_wolf_populations_by_country

Dogs bred for guarding livestock: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Livestock_guardian_dog

Introducing wolves in northern Europe: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf_reintroduction#Northern_Europe

Wolf repopulation and conservation in southern Europe: https://www.lavanguardia.com/local/girona/20190220/454285446272/lobo-pirineos-abre-debate-proteccion-projecte-llop.html

Catalonia: https://www.lavanguardia.com/natural/20200212/473446529246/lobos-catalunya-fotografias-camara-oculta-dos-ejemplares-localizados.html

Aragon: https://www.heraldo.es/noticias/aragon/huesca/2018/02/25/tras-las-huellas-del-lobo-pirineo-1226897-2261127.html

Basque Country: https://www.eitb.eus/es/noticias/sociedad/videos/detalle/5937840/video-el-gobierno-vasco-incluira-al-lobo-catalogo-especies-amenazadas/

EU: https://blog.humanesociety.org/2019/10/breaking-news-european-court-upholds-strong-protections-for-wolves.html

Issues and effects of reintroduction in Yellowstone USA: https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/csp2.413

Issues in reintroduction of the American Red Wolf: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/10/can-red-wolves-come-back-from-the-brink-of-extinction-again-aoe

Protection and reintroduction of the American Grey Wolf: https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/gray_wolves/

Not wolves but related subject — conservation of dingoes in Australia: https://theconversation.com/why-do-some-graziers-want-to-retain-not-kill-dingoes-77457

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-25/farmers-suggest-changing-regional-australia-approach-to-dingoes/100147468

Protection of forests by predation on grazers and other issues: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/275na4_en.pdf

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10342-011-0523-3

Importance of trees and grazing damage: https://www.savatree.com/whytrees.html

Adverse effect of present levels of loose carbon dioxide: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/greenhouse-gases

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/greenhouse-gases

Mexican Wolf: https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/mexican-wolf-breeding-programme-gets-boost-from-zoo-1160719.html

Suggestion of reintroduction of grey wolves to Scotland: https://www.conservationjobs.co.uk/articles/wolf-reintroduction-in-scotland/

Ireland: https://greennews.ie/why-we-need-to-plan-for-the-reintroduction-of-wolves/

https://www.thejournal.ie/is-ireland-ready-to-reintroduce-wolves-ireland-2029-podcast-4761981-Oct2019/

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/science/the-return-of-the-large-predator-to-mainland-europe-1.3727602

Related — Issues of reintroduction of raptors to Ireland: https://www.goldeneagle.ie/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=660&Itemid=195

https://www.tobinconsultingengineers.com/blog/a-brief-overview-of-the-reintroduction-of-raptor-species-in-ireland/

https://www.jstor.org/stable/24394182

Survival of reintroduced raptors, hostile propaganda, illegal poisoning and low number of prosecutions: http://trinitynews.ie/2016/10/farmers-wildlife-freak-outs-and-facts/

Wild mink control: https://www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/IWM40.pdf

REILIG NAOMH CHANNAITHE I BHFIONNGHLAS – “LEAG FREAGRACHT A CÚRAIME ORAINNE”

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Achar ama léite: 2 nóim)

Tá reilig i mBaile Átha Cliath a bhfuil breis agus míle bliain aici, agus crois ann a tartháladh ó loiteadh Chromail. Ach tá cuid de mhuinntir na h-áite mí-shásta leis an saghas cúram a bhfuil Comhairle Cathrach Bhaile Átha Cliath ag tabhairt di agus táid ag iarraidh iad féin a bheith freagrach as cúram na reilige.

Tá Reilig Naomh Channaithe suite díreach siar ón débhealach a ghearrann trí Fhionnghlas agus shéipéil.

“Tá uaimheanna ann do na h-uaisle áitiúla — teaghlach Maffett — atá daingnithe anois”, adeir Joe Lynch ag caint i mBéarla, “chun cosaint a dhéanamh ar robálaithe uaighe. Tá tuamaí cófra ann do na sagairt a fuair bás agus easpaig, agus cinn cloiche simplí do na comóntóirí.”

Bhí athair Joe Lynch mar airíoch ar an reilig agus bhí teaichín aige cois reilige dá bharr; b’ann a tógadh an clann páiste, Joe san áireamh. “Thugtaí isteach mé chuig an reilig i mbarra rotha,” adeir Joe, ‘agus mé ceithre bliain d’aois. Agus bheinn ag iarraidh cabhrú nuair a ligfí amach mé.”

An crois Críostaíoch ársa sa reilig (Griangraf: G. Hill)

NAOMH CAINNECH

B’ab, sagart agus misinéir Éireannach é Cainnech (515 / 16-600) as Achadh Bhó ins an Condae ainmnithe ar a shon, Cill Chainnigh chomh maith le bunaitheoir mainistreach i rith na luath-mheánaoise. Tugtar “Saint Canice” air i mBéarla in Éirinn, “St. Kenneth” in Albain nó “St. Kenny” agus i Laidin “Sanctus Canicus”. Tá an Cainneach ar cheann de Dháréag Aspal na hÉireann agus rinneadh sé seanmóireacht ar an gCríostaíocht ar fud na tíre agus ar na Cruithnigh in Albain. Scríobh sé tráchtaireacht ar na Soiscéil, ar a tugadh Glas-Chainnigh nó “Lock Kenneth” nó “Slabhra Chainnigh” ar feadh na gcéadta bliain.

Tá an chuid is mó dá bhfuil scríofa faoi shaol Cainnech bunaithe ar thraidisiún, ach measadh go raibh sé ina fhear le dea-cháil, le solabharthacht mór agus le léann. I 544 rinne sé staidéar faoi Mobhí Cláraineach i scoil Ghlas Naíon, le Ciarán as Cluain Mhic Nóise agus Comgall de Bheannchar. Nuair a scaip plá an pobal sin, chuaigh sé go mainistir Cadoc i Llancarfan i Glamorganshire sa Bhreatain Bheag, áit ar ordaíodh ina shagart é i 545.

Tá tagairt dá ainm luaite i sé logainm déag ag Wikipedia: in Éirinn, sa Bhreatain Bhig, in Albain, ins na SAM, san Astráil agus sa Nua-Shéalainn. Déantar comóradh ar a lá féasta an 11ú Deireadh Fómhair san Eaglais Chaitliceach Rómhánach agus in Eaglais Cheartchreidmheach an Oirthir de réir a gcuid féilirí faoi seach (Gregorian nó Church Julian) le laethanta féasta breise an 1d nó 14ú Lúnasa in Eaglais Cheartchreidmheach an Oirthir.

(Griangraf: D. Breatnach)

MEITHEAL OIBRE

Bhí meitheal oibre ann sa Reilig trathnóna Déardaoin seo chaite agus iad ag baint fiadhaile agus féir, ag gearradh driseacha, eidhneáin is a leithéid. Bhí na préamhacha go doimhin in áiteanna agus ba léir nach ndearna cóiriú ceart le tamall fada. “Tá an eidhneán ag clúdú ballaí an fhothrach agus de réir a chéile ag déanamh dochar dó. Is ón 10ú nó 12ú Céad an cill agus ba cheart na ballaí a chaomhnú,” adúirt ball den chumann staire áitiúil.

Joe Lynch i mbun oibre. (Griangraf: D. Breatnach)

“D’úsáid teaghlaigh Protastúnacha agus Caitliceacha an reilig,” adeir Joe, “lucht creidimh amháin ag teacht isteadh geata amháin agus an geata eile ag an gcreidimh eile. Ach ní gá dúinn an dá gheata anois agus táim ag tathant ar an gComhairle an geata eile a tháthú le fada.”

Deir lucht an chaomhnaithe go ndearnadh an crois ársa a roinnt i gcodanna sa 17ú Céad ionnas go bhféadfaí a chur i bhfolach nuair a chuala go raibh fórsaí Chromail le teacht thríd an dúiche, de fhaitíos go ndéanfadh siad an siomból a scrios mar a bhí á dhéanamh acu ar fud na tíre (ag iarraidh “íoldadhradh” a ruaigeadh). Thóg na fórsaí céanna bóthar eile ach d’fhan píosa na croise i bhfolach go ceann breis agus 160 bliain, go dtí go ndeachadh an t-urramach Walshe á lorg thrí bhéaloideas na h-áite agus tháinig air, ach níor fuarthas bun na croise go dtí seo.

Tá an crois céanna sa Reilig anois agus glacadh ag cumainn áitiúla mar siomból na dúiche. De réir Joe Lynch tá an Comhairle Cathrach ag iarraidh an crois a bhailliú as an reilig ach tá sé féin agus daoine eile ag iarraidh go bhfágfaidh ann é agus cúram na Reilige a fhágáil ag muinntir na h-áite.

Tá meithil eagraithe chun oibre ag an reilig trathnónta Sathairn agus oícheannta Déardaoine agus tuilleadh eolais ar leathanach Facebook na reilige.

Duine den mheithil i mbun oibre. (Griangraf: D. Breatnach)
Ball eile den mheithil. (Griangraf: D. Breatnach)

FOINNSÍ:

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

https://www.dublininquirer.com/2019/10/23/in-finglas-residents-push-for-better-maintenance-of-a-historic-graveyard

https://www.facebook.com/St-canices-graveyard-105954865096973/

APPENDIX:

English translation:

ST CANICE’S CEMETERY IN FINGLAS – “LET US HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY”

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 mins)

There is a cemetery in Dublin that is over a thousand years old, containing a cross that was salvaged from Cromwell’s destruction. But some locals are unhappy with the kind of care that Dublin City Council is giving it and want to take responsibility for the care of the cemetery.

St. Canice’s Cemetery is located just west of the dual carriageway which cuts through Finglas and churches.

“There is a crypt for the local esquires, the Maffett family – now cemented,” says Joe Lynch, “to protect it from grave robbers. There are chest tombs for the dead priests and bishops, and simple headstones for the commoners. ”

Joe Lynch’s father was caretaker of the cemetery and had a cottage next to it; it was where Joe was raised as a child. “I was taken to a cemetery in wheelbarrow,” says Joe, “when I was four years old. And I would want to help when I was let out.”

(Griangraf: D. Breatnach)

SAINT CANICE

Cainnech (515 / 16-600) was an Irish abbot, priest and missionary from the county named after him, Kilkenny, and the founder of an early medieval monastery. He is called “Saint Canice” in English in Ireland, “St. Kenneth” in Scotland or “St. Kenny” and in Latin “Sanctus Canicus”. Canice is one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland and preached Christianity throughout the country and to the Picts in Scotland. He wrote a commentary on the Gospels, known as “Lock Kenneth” or “Chain of Canice” for centuries.

Most of what is written about Kenny’s life is based on tradition, but he was considered a man of good repute, great eloquence and learning. In 544 he studied at St. Mobhi’s in Glasnevin, with Ciarán of Clonmacnoise and Comgall of Bangor. When the plague spread, he went to Cadoc Abbey in Llancarfan in Glamorganshire, Wales, where he was ordained a priest in 545.

Wikipedia connects his name to sixteen placenames: in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. His feast day on October 11th is commemorated in the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church according to their respective calendars (Gregorian or Church Julian) with additional feast days on the 1st or 14th of August in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

WORKING GROUP

A “meitheal”, a cooperative work party was at work last Thursday afternoon pulling weeds, cutting grass, brambles and ivy. The roots were deep in places and it was clear that site had not been properly tended for a long time. “The ivy is covering the walls of the ruin and gradually damaging them. The church dates from the 10th or 12th Century and the walls should be preserved,” said a member of the local historical society.

“The cemetery was used by Protestant and Catholic families,” says Joe, “one group entering one gate and the other faith at the other. But we don’t need both gates now and I’ve been at the Council to weld the other gate for a long time. ”

Larry agus ball eile den mheithil. (Griangraf: D. Breatnach)

Conservationists say the ancient cross was divided into parts in the 17th Century so that it could be hidden when they heard that Cromwell’s forces were coming through the area, for fear of their destroying the symbol as was being done all over the country (to banish “idolatrous worship”). The same forces traveled another route instead but the pieces of the cross remained hidden for over 160 years, until the reverend Walshe investigated local folklore and found it, but the base of the cross has not been found to date.

The same cross is now in the Cemetery and has been accepted by local societies as a symbol of the district. According to Joe Lynch the City Council is trying to remove the cross from the cemetery but he and others want it to remain there and the care of the Cemetery to be left to the local people.

The cemetery has a working group organized on Saturday evenings and Thursday evenings, more information on the cemetery ‘s Facebook page.

Cuid de bhallaí fothrach na cille agus duine den mheithil. (Griangraf: D. Breatnach)
Ina luigh ach ag obair.
Darmuid Ó Dubhghlais agus sean-leac uaighe. (Griangraf: D. Breatnach)
An príomh-gheata agus an crois ársa in aice leis. (Griangraf: D. Breatnach)

DUBLIN ANTI-INTERNMENT AND PRISONER SOLIDARITY PICKET SENDS SOLIDARITY MESSAGE TO MUMIA ABU JAMAL CONFERENCE

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: One minute)

A group of mixed political background held a picket this afternoon in Henry Street, one of the main shopping streets in Dublin’s city centre. The picket was protesting the continuing internment in Ireland of political activists and also expressing solidarity with political prisoners in different parts of the world – a Palestinian flag and a couple of Basque ones flew alongside the Irish ones. There are over 60 political prisoners in Irish jails both sides of the British Border.

Many people were out shopping or just enjoying the sun on what must have been the hottest day of the year so far. Up to 200 leaflets were distributed and passers-by occasionally stopped to discuss with the picket supporters.

Section of the picket displaying the banner of the organising group held by supporters. Also in the photo from left to right: Basque national Ikurrina; Basque Amnistia organisation; Irish Starry Plough; Palestinian flag. (Photo: C. Sulish)

MESSAGE OF SOLIDARITY TO CAMPAIGNERS FOR MUMIA ABU JAMAL

Near the end of the picket, a representative of the Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland was recorded voicing a message of solidarity for Mumia Abu Jamal, to send to an upcoming conference on Mumia and other political prisoners.

Mumia Abu Jamal in 2019 (Photo sourced: Liberation New)

Mumia is a political prisoner, a black United States activist and author who was awaiting execution but is now in his 40th year in jail. He was a popular broadcaster in 1981 when he went to the assistance of his brother, who was being harassed by a white police officer. As the incident came to an end the cop was dead of gunshot wounds and Mumia was shot in the stomach.

There are so many questions about the scenario the Prosecution laid out and which got Mumia convicted of murder and sentenced to death, which was later commuted to imprisonment for life. His gun had five bullets missing but Mumia was never tested to see whether he had fired the gun nor were the tests on the bullets in the police officer conclusively proven to come from there. The crime scene was not preserved and the police were in and out of it, with Mumia’s gun while Mumia was in hospital, undergoing an emergency operation. Photos taken of the scene by an independent press photographer did not show the presence of the taxi of a witness against Mumia, who claimed he was parked there. Not to mention the later confession of a man who claimed to have killed the police officer on behalf of other police as a contract kill (the decision not to use him as a witness divided Mumia’s legal team and two lawyers resigned as a result).

As the spokesperson of the Anti-Internment Committee said, even if people believe that he fired the shots that killed the police officer, after 40 years Mumia should be freed on humanitarian grounds. The USA is allegedly the country leading the world in democracy, as the spokesperson commented, but holds a great many political prisoners, some of them for many, many years in jail.

MORE EVENTS TO COME

Eastward view of picketers in Henry Street, Dublin, facing Liffey Street (Photo: C. Sulish)

Pandemic permitting, the AIGI intends to hold pickets on approximately a monthly basis to protest continuing internment and in solidarity with political prisoners, such events being advertised on our social media. The organisation is independent of any political party or organisation and all who oppose the jailing of activists without trial or wish to support political prisoners are welcome.

Two of the picketers with placards (Photo: C. Sulish)
Westward view of picketers in Henry Street, Dublin, facing Liffey Street (Photo: C. Sulish)

UNREMITTING SLAUGHTER OF WORKERS

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 4 mins.)

A fire in a Bangladesh factory last Thursday killed at least 52, some of them children as young as 11 years of age, according to relatives and neighbours. “Emergency services told Al Jazeera they had recovered 49 of the bodies at the Hashem Food and Beverage factory in Rupganj, an industrial town 25km (15 miles) east of the capital, Dhaka. Three people also died after jumping out of the building.” The police chief of Narayanganj district in which the factory was located, Jayedul Alam, was quoted saying that multiple fire and safety regulations had been breached and that, at the time of the fire, the entrance/ exit had been padlocked, the latter also confirmed by firefighters.

Those who died were workers, part of the world-wide slaughter of workers to satisfy the greed of a few. Every second, every minute of every day, all over the world, workers are killed or mutilated by the capitalist system in accidents at work. They are “accidents” only in the sense that the employers in most cases did not deliberately set out to kill the workers – they merely required them to work in conditions and without precautions that risked – no, ensured — accidents would happen. In fact, as a safety blog writer recommended (see Sources), we should stop calling them accidents – let’s call them mishaps instead, incidents that could have been avoided. And a proportion of those mishaps that were bound to occur would be fatal.

Those left behind to mourn a sibling, parent, partner, friend or – heavens above – a child, are of the workers also. Gone too, an income, a precarious investment in survival. The ripples of the “accident” spread outward through family and worker neighbourhood, ripples that very rarely, if ever, reach the rich neighbourhoods, the place where live those who profit from those workplaces.

From time to time here in the “western world” or the “North” as this sector, more in economic terms than political is variously described, we hear of such disasters in the “other” world, such as that at Rana Plaza in 2013. These are the places around the world where smaller-to-medium local capitalism is at work alongside foreign mega-capitalism. Many of the brand-name products we consume, wear or use are manufactured or processed in those countries. For the capitalists to make the profits their system requires and to compete with one another, consumption needs to be high and therefore the prices to be relatively low. And the wages – much, much lower. And safety conditions? Negligible.

The Tazreen Fashions factory fire in Dhaka, 2012 killed 112 workers (Photo source: Al Jazeera)

In November 2012 a blaze at Tazreen Fashions in Dhaka, which makes clothes for foreign clients including C&A, Walmart, Sears, Disney and others, killed 112 workers. Commenting on the background to the disaster, in a Guardian article in 2012, journalist Scott Nova, (see Sources) stated:

“In the last two years, fires in Bangladesh and Pakistan have taken the lives of nearly 500 apparel workers, at plants producing for Gap, H&M, JC Penney, Target, Abercrombie & Fitch, the German retailer KiK and many others”. Nova went on to comment (in 2012): Bangladesh is now the world’s second-largest apparel producer. It did not attain that status by achieving high levels of productivity, or a strong transportation infrastructure; it got there by being the rock-bottom cheapest place to make clothing.

“This derives from three factors: the industry’s lowest wages (a minimum apparel wage of 18 cents an hour), ruthless suppression of unions and a breathtaking disregard for worker safety. The industry in Bangladesh has been handsomely rewarded for its cost-cutting achievements, with an ever-rising flood of business from western brands …… And local factory owners understand that if they do not continue to offer the lowest possible prices, those brands will be quick to leave.”

Some of the western world’s high street brands that are produced by super-exploited workers in firetrap factories abroad. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Added to that is the apparel industry’s indulgence in “fast fashion”, in order to boost consumption still further. No longer is the year divided into four seasons but “52 micro-seasons”. “Fast fashion giants H&M and Forever 21 receive new garment shipments every day. Topshop features 400 new styles every week, while Zara releases 20,000 designs annually” (see Green America link in Sources). To keep up with that demand requires a frenetic level of production, albeit at lower quality, layoffs when each ‘micro-seasonal” demand is filled and of course, even less concern with safety conditions. The factory fire last Thursday is only the latest in a long list and there will be many more.

But lest we think industrial mishaps are a problem only somewhere else, it would be useful to remind ourselves that even in our relatively under-industrialised economy in Ireland, workplace accidents continue to maim and kill. According to the Irish state’s Health & Safety Authority: “Regrettably, 47 fatal work-related accidents were reported to the Authority in 2019, representing a substantial increase from 2018, which was the lowest year on record with 39 fatal accidents. … The number of work-related non-fatal injuries also increased in 2019, with 9,335 reported to the Authority.” And: “the 39 fatalities recorded in 2018 was one of the lowest numbers of workplace fatalities on records. However, despite the current pandemic circumstances, it would appear that 2020 is heading for number in the mid to late 40s.”

As we may imagine, construction comes high on the mishap list but so also do factories, agricultural work, transport and fishing and mishaps occur also in hospitals and care homes, shops, restaurants and even offices. The Covid19 pandemic revealed that many areas of occupation are necessary for our daily lives but are also vulnerable. And revealed also how slowly and inefficiently protective measures for those workers were taken by their management levels or sadly, enforced or even monitored by trade unions.

Firefighters work at the scene of the burning Bangladesh factory last Thursday (Photo credit: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters)

IMPUNITY OR CRIMINAL PENALTY?

It is reported that the owner of the burned Bangladeshi factory and a number of his sons have been arrested. This is to be welcomed and hopefully the prosecution of those responsible will be followed through. Prosecution of employers responsible for mishaps is one measure that can be taken to extend the protection of workers but the process is rarely in the hands of the workers and in addition deals with structures that are more aligned with the interests of employers than they are with those of their workers.

Such procedures that have been tried have usually been under civil1 law and involved claims for financial compensation alleging negligence; however increasingly criminal law is being invoked, as is presumably the case with the Bangladeshi factory.

Years ago I was associated with a militant organisation by the name of The Construction Safety Campaign.2 If I recall correctly, at the time, one worker was being killed every week on a construction site in Britain, with injuries on a daily basis.

The CSC maintained that every time a fatality occurred on a construction site, work should cease for the whole day. It is indicative of the attitude of the big construction companies and indeed of many subcontractors that such a demand actually required voicing.

Among their other demands was that whenever there was such a fatality, that the main contractor be charged with manslaughter, i.e the crime of being responsible for an unintended fatality through action or inaction. Such a demand was very reasonable but was seen as almost revolutionary at the time. But a few years later a construction company boss did indeed stand trial for manslaughter and, although he was acquitted, a precedent had been set. However it remained a difficult process to even have the employer charged, to say nothing of convicted.

It was not until 2008 that legislation was specifically enacted to facilitate the charging of companies when individual company directors proved difficult to charge with manslaughter in the event of fatalities in their workplaces. The first case under the new legislation took place in 2009 and the sole company director in this case was also charged separately under common law with manslaughter. Seeing alleged culpability of the employer in this case, that he had required a geologist to work in an unshored trench deeper than his own height which, when collapsed, suffocated the geologist, reminded me of the claim of the defendants in the Shrewsbury 24 trials arising out of the 1972 construction strike.3

(Sourced at IDCOMMUNISM.ORG)

CONTINUING SLAUGHTER? 6,000 DEATHS A DAY.

“The ILO (International Labour Organisation) estimates that some 2.3 million women and men around the world succumb to work-related accidents or diseases every year; this corresponds to over 6000 deaths every single day. Worldwide, there are around 340 million occupational accidents and 160 million victims of work-related illnesses annually.” (see Sources)

Capitalism kills. It kills and maims millions of workers by workplace mishaps, overwork, diseases, psychological stresses, environmental disasters – and let’s not forget wars.

Revolution, we are often cautioned, is chaotic and entails death and injury to many – most of which will be workers, whether in the revolutionary forces, or enlisted by the system, or in one way or another swept into the casualty figures. This is all true. But Revolution killing as many as capitalism? Hardly. And after successful Revolution, production can be organised to eliminate mishaps and unhealthy working conditions. At least, with the mechanisms in the hands of the workers, they have the possibility of removing workplaces from danger or, where danger might be inevitable, to reduce it greatly. Industrial mishaps, let’s not forget, are avoidable.

MEANWHILE

While we work for revolution and a society under the control of the workers, we have a duty to ourselves and to our dependents to work to reduce the occurrence of mishaps. We can do this by improving conditions and prevention in our own workplaces, by reporting health and safety violations elsewhere to the relevant authorities and by demanding reparations and improvements from the companies whose products we consume through their use of production facilities abroad – such as firetrap sweatshops4.

Under legislation in Ireland and the UK, workers are entitled to elect health and safety representatives, with which management are obliged to consult. These may be coincidentally representatives of a trade union but they need not be even union members – the legal right to health and safety representation is separate from the question of trade union representation. Of course, raising issues of concern that would cost the management time and money to address may necessitate the H&S representatives to ensure they have trade union protection, legislation notwithstanding.

In a workplace years ago, wishing for a period of relative calm, I declined nomination as trade union shop steward and instead accepted that of staff health and safety representative. Quite quickly I found myself in more arguments with local management than the union representative needed to be and across the organisation too, as I pushed for Risk Assessments to be carried out, as we had done in my workplace, examining every operation. The organisation’s Health & Safety Committee agreed the need for the assessments but failed to push for them and unfortunately so did the trade union itself. Health and Safety representatives may find themselves struggling not only with Management but also with their own trade union structures (and at times with their own co-workers). Nevertheless, comprehensive workplace risk assessments are the only reasonable way to avoid or limit mishaps.

Practice fire procedures or drills are necessary too. In another workplace, this time as a manager myself, we made recorded fire checks on every shift and stepped up fire drills from every six months to monthly, from always announced to some unannounced. Who would remember was required after six months? Had there been changes in the building, procedures or staff since the lat exercise? On one of our early drills, the observer we had detailed to follow with checklist and notepad found problems that had never been recorded previously and which required our team to take remedial measures. On the occasion of another drill, I learned that the front entrance had been used instead of the emergency exit. Investigation revealed that in the passage way towards that emergency exit, one of the staff had placed his bicycle for safe-keeping – and he was the staff health and safety representative!

The election of workers’ representatives and the monitoring of their performance in those roles is the responsibility of the workers, not management. All I could do was to instruct the person to remove the bicycle and to make all staff aware that the placing of any obstruction in the emergency exit passage way was a serious disciplinary offence.

SOLIDARITY

As most of us around the world are workers, it is necessary for us to express internationalist solidarity towards one another. Note I said “necessary”, not just desirable. When our labour power is at the mercy of employers who move factories around the world, or contract factories anywhere they find sufficiently profitable, our gains in separate countries can be undermined, we can be undercut and made unemployed. The effective response to these threats lies in internationalist solidarity, so that we assist workers in other lands in their organisation and we target their exploiters when we find them nearby.

In 2015 I joined a picket of major French clothing company Benetton’s shop in the Stephens Green Shopping Centre, Dublin. We also did a sit-in inside the shop, defying threatening behaviour of the Centre’s security staff and likewise the threat to call the police. A subsequent picket and sit-in also took place (see Sources). Benetton was one of the many foreign companies exploiting the workers of Rana Plaza and, after the disaster there, had promised to pay financial compensation to the relatives of the workers killed there. Such offers are often made in similar situations for public relation reasons, usually without admitting culpability. At the time their store in Dublin was picketed, Benetton had still not paid the compensation promised two years earlier.

In contrast to fascists and other racists who advocate protecting our own native workforce above all else, we should extend solidarity to all other workers who are being exploited. When all workers are achieving protection from the worst working conditions and lowest wages, it will be that much harder for our employers to use one section against another. In the past, our employers in every business, industry, city or country tried to treat with us as individual workers but we found that banding together was the only way to improve our conditions and remuneration for all. Internationalist solidarity is the application of that lesson on an international level — the same level as that on which our exploiters operate.

End.

FOOTNOTES:

1 Civil law deals with matters like company law, family law, personal injury cases, libel and slander. A number of penalties including financial damages can be imposed and awarded by the judiciary in such cases but not prison terms (however failure to comply with penalties imposed can result in imprisonment for “contempt of court”).

2 I got a bit of a scare when attending one of the CSC’s pickets which was of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, prior to a meeting inside booked by an MP and which we were going to attend. As we went through the security sensors, the construction worker I had been talking to set off the sensor alarms. As we were both political activists and I was Irish in Britain at a time of IRA bombings there, this made me very nervous. The construction worker began pulling nails and screws out of his pockets and piling them into a tray while I grinned nonchalantly at the security police. His pockets emptied, he went through again – and set the alarms off once more. I was sure we were going to be taken into a room and strip-searched. However, once they ascertained that it was the steel toecaps in his construction boots that were setting off the alarms, we were allowed through, me wanting to punch my comrade a number of times.

3 During their trial for alleged intimidation in flying pickets from construction site to site during the 1972 construction strike in Britain, some of the Shrewsbury 24 gave evidence that among the violation of health and safety regulations they had witnessed at sites they had picketed was workers being obliged to work in unshored trenches deeper than their own height. Twenty-four construction trade unionists were charged with serious crimes as a result of their activism during the strike and twenty-two were convicted across three trials in 1973 and 1974 with six, including the later actor Ricky Tomlinson, being sentenced to years in prison. The convictions of all 22 were overturned on appeal earlier this year but a number had died in the intervening years.

4. In view of the reality, it is shocking that a fashion clothing company should call itself, even in some attempt at irony, “Firetrap”. This company is now part of the Fraser Group, with factories in much of the world producing clothing, in particular sports wear. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firetrap

SOURCES:

Recent Bangladesh factory fire: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/7/10/murder-bangladesh-factory-owner-held-after-deadly-fire

Rana Plaza disaster 2013: https://www.corpwatch.org/article/benetton-others-tied-bangladesh-factory-disaster-400-killed

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/17/rana-plaza-disaster-benetton-donates-victims-fund-bangladesh

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/19/rana-plaza-bangladesh-one-year-on

https://www.thejournal.ie/rana-plaza-benetton-2065943-Apr2015/

Number of other factory fire disasters: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/dec/13/apparel-industry-outsourcing-garment-workers-bangladesh

Dublin Benetton picket and sit-in:

https://www.thejournal.ie/rana-plaza-benetton-2065943-Apr2015/

Fast fashion: https://traidcraftexchange.org/fast-fashion-crisis-2020-campaign

https://www.greenamerica.org/blog/factory-exploitation-and-fast-fashion-machine

Ireland, industrial mishaps: https://www.hsa.ie/eng/publications_and_forms/publications/corporate/annual_review_of_workplace_injury_illness_and_fatality_statistics_2018-2019.pdf

First case under (2008) UK law on corporate manslaughter: https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2009/jun/17/mudslide-corporate-manslaughter-charge

Shrewsbury Twenty-Four: https://www.thejournal.ie/shrewsbury-24-ruling-ricky-tomlinson-5389409-Mar2021/

General: https://www.memic.com/workplace-safety/safety-net-blog/2019/march/are-all-accidents-preventable

https://www.ilo.org/moscow/areas-of-work/occupational-safety-and-health/WCMS_249278/lang–en/index.htm

Health & Safety worker representation: Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act (2005): https://www.hsa.ie/eng/Topics/Safety_Representatives_and_Consultation_/

BELARUS: SURE TO HEAR “UNDEMOCRATIC POLITICALLY-MOTIVATED CHARGES” FROM THE SPANISH GOVERNMENT

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 mins)

Viktor Babariko, leading political opposition leader until he was arrested on corruption charges just before the Presidential election last August, has been sentenced in Belarus to 14 years in jail and a fine equivalent to a little over €47,990. Viktor Babariko was the head of a bank owned by the gas company Gazprom.

Viktor Babariko in Minsk courtroom cage July 2021 (Photo credit Rami Nasibulin BelTA Pool/ AP)

The news has already drawn condemnation of the Lukashenko regime in Belarus from the USA’s Embassy and howls of protest are sure to be heard across the EU also. The hypocrisy there on this kind of treatment of political opponents is stark – the Spanish state jailed nine political leaders for their involvement in an independence referendum in 2017, sentencing them to up to 13 years in prison (the State Prosecution asked for around 50 years), while leaders of most EU states and main political parties remained silent.

To be sure, European regimes, even the Spanish one, are more liberal than the one in Belarus. After four years in jail, the Spanish regime recently released those Catalan political activists on conditional pardons, a move unlikely to be equalled in Belarus. But those Catalans are barred from standing in elections and face a return to jail for “any repetition of their crimes” – i.e organising politically for Catalan independence. And some others are in jail for activities during the protest general strikes and over 3,000 are threatened with judicial process for involvement in the 2017 Referendum. Other Catalan political leaders are in exile, including the former President of Catalonia’s autonomous region, who is a Member of the European Parliament.

And European regimes wouldn’t use financial wrongdoing charges against political opponents, would they? Or try to cripple them financially? Actually, right at this moment, the Spanish State, through its audit court, is pursuing former Catalan Government ministers and officials on charges of misusing their Government’s funds, demanding a total of €50.4 million from them (sums of over €2m each). Furthermore, they must put those amounts up as bonds — without being convicted of financial wrongdoing in any criminal court — and have only weeks to do so.

Oriol Junqueras, former Deputy Leader of Catalonia (also elected an MEP while in jail), has been ordered to “repay” €1.9m. Carles Puigdemont, former Catalan President now in exile in Belgium, has also been ordered to pay €1.9m. On Tuesday Puigdemont commented on Twitter that his lawyer had been given only three hours to read 500 pages of court documents and 10 minutes to put his case.

What if those being targeted refuse to pay or simply can’t pay? Their property, including house and car can be seized along with a portion of their income, quite possibly deducted for the rest of their lives.

Andreu Mas-Colell, 76, a former Catalan finance minister, also faces a court demand for a large repayment. A former Harvard economics professor, he has received the support of 53 economists, including 33 Nobel laureates, who last week wrote a letter urging the Spanish state not to impose a large fine on him. His son, Gabriel Mas, told the Financial Times: “In the next 15 days, Andreu will have to deposit a guarantee of €670,000-€2.8m as the result of an administrative decision in which not a single judge has participated.”

With regard to the Babariko sentence, the stink of hypocrisy rising from the Spanish State is appalling — but it covers most of the EU too.

End.

REFERENCES

Belarus court convicts and jails Viktor Babariko: https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/belarus-sentences-former-presidential-contender-to-14-years-1152525.html

Conditional pardons of jailed Catalan activists: https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/spanish-government-pardons-jailed-catalan-separatist-leaders/

Financial penalties on Catalan political activists:

https://www.ft.com/content/85555e23-a7fa-43f1-b5f2-40fa63d64a69

https://euobserver.com/opinion/152346

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jun/28/catalonia-threat-impose-massive-fines-ex-minister-prompt-outcry

If we Tolerate This, Our Children Will be Next

The Trauma of Child Homelessness by Brian McLoughlin

(Reading time: 2 mins.)



In March 2017, then housing minister Simon Coveney officially opened the first family hub in Dublin for families experiencing homelessness. He said this was a response to the negative experiences of homeless families being accommodated in commercial hotels. Coveney then confidently stated that the use of commercial hotels to accommodate homeless families would end in July 2017. 

In Inner City Helping Homeless, we knew this was yet another empty promise that couldn’t possibly be delivered, but Coveney persisted with the publicity tour. When asked by The Journal if he really thought the goal of no longer using hotels for homeless families was achievable, he stuck to his guns that it was possible and that people were working hard to make it happen.

Fast forward four years, and the use of commercial hotels and B&Bs for homeless families continues as more and more hotels pop up around the city. A recent DRHE report stated that in April 2021 there were 113 families still being accommodated in commercial hotels. Families cramped in to one room with their children, their children’s toys, school books – all at a huge cost to the state. While we were all told to stay at home during Covid-19, these families had to spend day after day sharing one room, putting huge mental health pressure on both the children and their parents. It is well documented that living in emergency accommodation impacts a child’s development, creating physical and mental health issues for children in primary school. Homelessness is creating a trauma for a generation of children, and we will be seeing the fallout of this for years to come.

“There’s nothing nice about how I feel” – Charlie, aged 6

In 2019, the Ombudsman for Children brought out a report called No Place Like Home.  For the report, they spoke to children living in emergency accommodation, from small children right up to teenagers. They asked them to explain what life for them was like in their own words, and some of the answers would break a heart made of stone. Children feeling like they were prisoners and were being punished when all they are guilty of is becoming homeless in a country that would rather pay huge money to hotels, B&Bs and family hubs than develop a proper public housing building plan to give these children homes.  When asked what they liked about where they live, the answers spoke for themselves:

“I like nothing about living here, I have none of my friends here, I can’t do a sleep over … [it] makes me feel sad. There’s nothing nice about how I feel”. (Charlie, aged 6)

“It’s like a prison …. It’s just horrible” – Rebecca, aged 10

“The rules are very strict. The worst is that you are not allowed to have friends in your room. They just expect you to sit on your own. And not being allowed to be anywhere without your mam, you’re not even allowed to sit in the room for ten minutes by yourself. I know it has safety issues but nothing is going to happen … If we break the rules we will get kicked out. It’s like a prison … it’s just horrible”. (Rebecca, aged 10)

“Some days I didn’t even want to wake up” – Rachel, aged 10

“Some days I didn’t even want to wake up because I didn’t want to face this day … I am tired in school. Some days I would just sit there and not even smile”. (Rachel, aged 10)

When there are ten-year-old children having suicidal thoughts we as a society are failing these children. Many speak of not being allowed to have visitors or sleep-overs – even prisoners are allowed to have visitors. Why are we allowing this?

 “Children … were struggling to learn to walk in a cramped room”

In 2018, Temple Street Children’s Hospital experienced a big spike in children being released to ‘No Fixed Abode’ and wrote a report on the impact of homelessness on children. The report stated that homeless children are most likely to get sick from their cramped accommodation. The main reasons children presented to Temple Street were burns (kettles in hotel rooms), scabies from dodgy mattresses, injuries from falls, and respiratory issues. Even more shocking is the fact that homeless children were not developing quickly enough: they were struggling to learn to walk in a cramped room and even the development of their swallow was effected due to the food they were having to eat as their parents had no available cooking facilities.  Research shows that homelessness influences every facet of a child’s life, from conception to young adulthood, and that the experience of homelessness inhibits the physical, emotional, cognitive, social and behavioural development of children.

A family eats food from a voluntary service in Dublin city’s main street

“As of April 2021 there were 167 families, 247 adults and 475 children, who are in emergency accommodation for over two years”

These children are this country’s future generations, and they are being let down over and over again by an incompetent government who lack empathy, compassion and vision. A government which continues to outsource state responsibilities to private developers, vulture funds, commercial hotels, B&Bs and privately-operated hostels. Not only do we have a government who lack empathy and compassion, but they are also economically incompetent. Report after report has highlighted what we are doing to children’s development by keeping them in emergency accommodation. As of April 2021 there were 167 families, 247 adults and 475 children, who are in emergency accommodation for over two years.

And what does family emergency accommodation cost? What is the price the taxpayer pays to put children into these environments that cause so much pain?

Fact: it costs more to accommodate a family in emergency accommodation than in a luxury apartment

The figure for accommodating a family of four in emergency accommodation for a year is a staggering €69,000-€80,000.  To put a family in one room, to put a huge strain on the mental and physical health of both the children and their parents.  For context, American real estate fund Kennedy Wilson are renting out units in Dublin’s Capitol Dock Development, originally marketed as Dublin’s Most Desirable Address. On-site amenities include a concierge service, gym, fitness studio, business lounge, residents’ lounge, chef’s kitchen and a cinema room. Nearly half of these apartments are vacant today, potential homes sitting empty as families struggle through life in emergency accommodation.  And the cost of renting one of these apartments is considerably less than what the taxpayer is paying per family for emergency accommodation. The biggest unit in the Capitol Dock building is a three-bed and the monthly cost is €4,017-€4,410.  This is between €20,000 and €30,000 cheaper annually than putting a homeless family into a hotel or B&B for the year.  Is this acceptable to people?

We owe it to these children to fight for them, to tell the government that we will no longer accept their hyperbole and broken promises. These children deserve a safe and secure home, something stated in the original constitution, and we have gotten further and further away from that in the last ten years. We all need to work together to get a referendum on the Right to Housing, and as Covid restrictions lift we need to see feet on the street for water-charges-level protests to shame the government into immediate action.

As the Manic Street Preachers song says, If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next.

Brian McLoughlin is Head of Communications for Inner City Helping Homeless and one of the four contributors to Unite’s Take Four group blog, along with Conor McCabe, Ber Grogan and Laura Broxson.

end.

LONG LIVE THE VANDALS!

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

In the midst the protests in Colombia the press can be heard denouncing the vandals and various politicians from the left and right have echoed these criticisms in one way or another.  The headlines speak of the destruction of private property and in some cases they try to mark a distinction between what they say is legitimate protest and vandalism.

The word “vandal”, means someone who commits acts pertaining to savage and destructive people and is who destroys a public asset or installation.  Other definitions speak of destroying or damaging what is beautiful.  It should be said that the Transmilenio mass transport system stations are not one bit beautiful.  But should the youths be ashamed or proud of being called vandals?

Resisters in Colombian city of Madrid shelter behind makeshift shields as they are bombarded with water canon in May 2021 (Photo crdt. Juan Pablo Pino, AFP/Getty)

We should look at the origin of the word.  The first vandals were Germanic tribes that in 455 A.D. attacked and sacked Rome carrying away great riches and also destroying buildings, amongst them the Temple of Jupiter, though there is some dispute about the severity of the destruction of the city.  However, they went down in history as the vandals who destroyed that city.  The more modern use of the person who destroys public assets or private property or damages what is beautiful dates from the middle ages and its use is widespread nowadays.

Of course when Vicky Dávila and other right wing journalists speak of vandals they are not talking about Germanic tribes, or at least that is what we believe, though with Vicky even drug traffickers, paramilitaries and corrupt politicians are decent folk, so one is never sure about the meaning of the words that fall from her lips like the Police stun grenades.

“The Police rape and murder” (Photo: G.O.L)

But words and their meanings are not set in stone.  Some words enter a language and in short time fall into disuse, others last for centuries and some come back to life when least we expect like when Kim Jong-un’s translator used the word “Dotard” to describe Trump.  That word hadn’t seen the light of day since the US Civil War in the 19th Century.  Other words simply change their meaning, sometimes slowly and on other occasions they do so more abruptly.

The press has used this word so often to describe and disparage the social protests that we may be witnesses to another change in meaning.  The bourgeois press has emptied the word of any meaning and now in the marches people can be seen with placards that say Vandal’s Honour and in social media there are memes doing the rounds on the subject.  One of them says “The country turned upside down and this one says, what are you and I?  Well, vandals my love.”  They used the word so often to describe any act of rebellion, nonconformity or to and try and shut down and discredit the demonstrators that it has lost its power, its meaning.  Now it is a badge of honour for many.  Vandal no longer means a savage destructive person but rather a person who fights to be heard, for justice.  A vandal is whoever fights against Duque, neoliberalism and poverty.

The word is changing its connotation and once again it is closer to its original meaning, a tribe that defied an Empire, although in this case the Colombian emperor seems more like the Emperor Nero (54-68 A.D.) who played on his Lyre whilst Rome burned than the poor Petronius Maximus who only lasted a few weeks in power.  Duque doesn’t play the Lyre but rather the Guitar, but there he is and Nero’s regime was one of extravagance, waste and tyranny and Nero in the middle of it all playing on his Lyre.

The sacking of Rome in 455 A.D. was the third sacking that the city suffered.  There were a further five sackings after the Vandals.  It should be remembered that the Vandals sacked the capital of a decadent Empire that deserved to be extinguished.

Burnt out bank from 2006 (G.O.L)

So as the meme puts it, ask the question, what are you and I?  And answer:

We are Vandals my love, we damage the hated system of mass transport built with public funds legally stolen to set up a private transport business which to top it all takes 94% of the profits of a business and barely contributes a penny to its own maintenance.

We are Vandals my love, we destroy banks that receive more subsidies from the state than the poor who are denied loans by these banks, which don’t hesitate for a single moment to confiscate the houses of the poor.

We are Vandals my love, who in the face of the lives and censorship of the bourgeois press make our smothered voices reverberate on the walls of the city.  Who needs Twitter when you even the poorest can see the walls?

We are Vandals my love, who in the face of the attacks by the Police throw rocks at them that are found all about the place in the poorly built public infrastructural projects, in a country where the thieves don’t know how to build a pavement and where half the bricks are badly placed.

We are Vandals my love, we fight against a decadent government and system.

We are Vandals my love, and our favourite letter is V:

V for Vengeance on the rich that kill us, rob us and lie to us.

V for Victory against the neoliberal regime.

V for Vandals my love.

Long Live The Vandals!

End.

LOWEST VOTE EVER AGAINST THE NON-JURY COURT — ALL SF TDs GO ABSENT

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: mins.)

The undemocratic non-jury Special Criminal Court was renewed for another year in the Dáil yesterday evening with the lowest abstentions or vote against it ever. All Sinn Féin’s TDs (members of the Irish parliament) absented themselves and FG, FF, Greens and Labour all voted for another year’s renewal, with the Social Democrats abstaining. Seven votes were cast against it, the lowest ever since it was brought in as part of the Offences Against the State Act in 1972.

Voting against renewal were the five PBP/Solidarity TDs (Bríd Smith, Richard Boyd Barrett, Gino Kenny, Mick Barry, Paul Murphy) and the two left-wing Independent TDs: Joan Collins and Thomas Pringle. Sinn Féin, who abstained in 1920 for the first time after decades of opposition, just didn’t attend at all this time. In 1920 they said that they were awaiting a review of the Act promised by the Justice Minister – but without any explanation of what in the review could possibly convince them to keep the Act in place. The Social Democrats, whose amendment to bring the Special Court to an end by a deadline of June 29th next year was rejected, abstained in the vote.

Section of picketers with banner (Photo: Abolish the Special Courts)

SINN FÉIN ABANDONS DECADES OF OPPOSITION TO THE SPECIAL CRIMINAL COURT

Since the Acts’ inception, Sinn Féin has voted against the annual renewal – until last year, when they abstained and this year, absented themselves from the Dáil before the vote. For some years now, the party has been reshaping itself to take part in a coalition government with one of the government parties. Supporters of the party who believe this a necessary disguise to enter the corridors of power and that the party will then return to its Republican past will find that for whatever principle the party gives up voluntarily, a further one will be extracted by pressure. Those who crawl into government will never be able to stand up in it later.

James Geoghegan, FG’s candidate for the forthcoming by-election in Dublin Bay East, taking a swipe at SF’s candidate Lynn Boylan, said “When it comes before both the Dáil and Seanad, what will Sinn Féin and Senator Lynn Boylan do? Will they abstain yet again, which undermines the laws in place to keep our citizens and democratic institutions safe?

“If Senator Boylan wishes to be a senior legislator and member of Dáil Eireann, she must show her support for the institutions of the State and do all in her power to protect the public from criminality and the threat of terrorism.”

Note that Geoghegan has no difficulty in equating support for “democratic institutions” with supporting their very negation, such as jury-less trials.

Voting display in the Dáil (sourced from Abolish the Special Courts)

Sinn Féin party leaders may think that in not opposing the SCC’s renewal, they are abandoning only some Republican principles, as Republicans have been the main victims of the Special Criminal Court to date but in fact they are also colluding in a major attack on civil and human rights, as pointed to by the opposition of civil and human rights organisations to the SCC.

OPPOSITION OUTSIDE THE DÁIL

Picket group at intersection just before Garda barrier. (Photo: Anti-Imperialist Action)

Outside the Dáil, which has been held in the Convention Building on the Dublin quays since the Covid 19 measures, a protest picket took place before the vote. The demonstration was organised by the Abolish the Special Courts campaign and supported by a mixed attendance of Republicans, Socialists and Anarchists.

A number of passing motorists, particularly in company vans and lorries, blew their car horns in solidarity in passing, some also extending a clenched fist or “thumbs up” sign out of their window.

Left Independent TDs Thomas Pringle and Joan Collins joined the picketers for a while and Richard Boyd Barrett chatted with them in passing too; all three posed for a photo while holding a placard against the SCC before returning to the Dáil to speak and vote against the juryless court.

Independent left TDs (Irish MPs) Joan Collins and Thomas Pringle joined the picket for a while. (Photo: Abolish the Special Courts)

The Abolish the Special Courts campaign was launched in 2017 and a public meeting the campaign group organised in Dublin in 2018 heard about a number of then recent cases of unjust convictions in the non-jury courts. Since then the campaign group has organised protests against the SCC.

Group of picketers near the Samuel Beckett Bridge (Photo: Anti-Imperialist Action)

IRISH STATE TERRORIST LEGISLATION ASSISTED BY BRITISH TERRORISM

The Special Criminal Court, as stated earlier, is part of the Offences Against the State Act (OAS) 1939, which is sometimes described as the Irish State’s anti-terror legislation. However, the setting up of the Special Criminal Court and the infamous Amendment to the OAS which allows convictions of “membership of an illegal organisation” solely on the unsupported word of a Garda at superintendent rank or higher, was in fact passed on a wave of hysteria after a terrorist bombing in 1972 by British Intelligence terrorists.

Aftermath of the 1972 car bomb explosion by British agents to have the Dáil vote in favour of the SCC and the Amendment to the Offences Against the State Act. Two public transport workers were killed here. (Photo sourced: Internet)

On the evening of December 1st, 1972, a car bomb exploded near Liberty Hall in Dublin and although there were no fatalities in that explosion, many were injured. A second bomb a short time later at Sackville Place, off O’Connell Street, killed Mr George Bradshaw (29), a bus driver, and Mr Duffy (24), a bus conductor.

The indications had been that Fine Gael and Labour were both going to vote against the Fianna Fáil proposals but in the panic after the the explosions, which were blamed against all logic on the IRA, the opposition to the Acts collapsed and they passed.

THE PRETENCE OF “TEMPORARY PROVISIONS”

The Acts must be voted upon annually because, as with much emergency legislation across the world, the myth is propagated that the provisions are temporary; however these “temporary measures” have now been in place for 82 years! To give another example, the specifically anti-Irish emergency legislation introduced to Britain in 1974, the annually-renewable Prevention of Terrorism Act, was only abolished 15 years later to be replaced by the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1989 (again “Temporary Provisions”) which in turn was replaced by the Terrorism Act 2000.

The powers this Act provide the police have been controversial, leading to noted cases of alleged abuse, and to legal challenges in British and European courts. The stop-and-search powers under section 44 of the Act have been ruled illegal by the European Court of Human Rights.

That Act was strengthened by the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, which was then replaced by Section 1 of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures 2011. All repressive legislation in Britain has now ceased even the pretence of being temporary.

A similar trajectory has been followed by “emergency” legislation in the Six Counties statelet, from the very creation of the administration in 1921 (with the Emergency Powers Act of 1920), a new Act in 1926, amended in 1964 and replaced by the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, providing unlimited powers of harassment for the colonial police along with refusal of bail, undemocratic bail conditions and easy convictions for the non-jury Diplock Courts.

Section of picketers with banner proclaiming a slogan of the Irish Transport & General Workers Union during WW1 (Photo: Abolish the Special Courts)

NON-JURY COURTS

Historically, on occasion juries have been misled and have also been complicit in unjust verdicts, convicting innocent people (there are infamous cases such as the Irish-related ones in Britain in the 1970s, the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Maguire Seven, Giuseppe Conlon and Judith Ward). But much less so than non-jury courts. The right to be tried by a jury empaneled by random selection is considered across the world a fundamental democratic right and, furthermore, is one that has been fought for across the centuries, first to win the actual right, then to apply it across classes and finally to apply it to women and ethnic minorities.

The Six County colony has the Diplock non-jury courts and the Irish State has the SCC, both emergency and undemocratic measures in two states that are supposed to be democracies. Both courts regularly remand accused in custody without bail or impose undemocratic restrictions on the few occasions when bail is granted, such as having to be indoors by a specific time daily, prohibition from attending political meetings, etc. At trial, the required burden of proof on the Prosecution is very light indeed, ensuring an unnaturally high rate of convictions.

Richard Boyd Barrett TD of PBP/Solidarity, holding placard, supporting the picket. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The Irish Council of Civil Liberties, which was founded in 1976 by people concerned about the increase in repressive powers of the Irish State, has stated that the court “continues to represent the single biggest denial of fair trial rights in our legal system”. The SCC has also been condemned by Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations.

Whereas apologists for these undemocratic and repressive measures argue that non-jury courts are necessary because jurors might be intimidated, they fail to produce evidence of this having happened. However, there is hard evidence of unjust convictions by the Special Criminal Court.

In 2017 Michael Connolly, who had already spent 14 months in prison had his SCC conviction for alleged membership of the IRA overturned and a retrial ordered, during which he was found “not guilty”. Assistant Commissioner of the Gardaí Michael O’Sullivan was judged to have been “careless” in producing a single piece of “evidence” twice as the basis of his belief of the man’s guilt, which made it appear that there were two pieces of evidence, which the SCC considered sufficient to convict.

In 1986 the Special Criminal Court found Osgur Breatnach, Brian McNally and Nicky Kelly guilty of robbing a mail train near Sallins, Co. Kildare. They were innocent but had “confessed” after beatings in Garda custody, which the Prosecution claimed they had inflicted upon themselves and which the SCC accepted despite vigorous denials and the fact that Breatnach had been in a cell on his own. The three were sentenced to between nine and 12 years but their convictions were later overturned and they were paid compensation by the State in acknowledgement of their innocence. “Whistleblower”, a multi-media work on the unjust convictions organised by musician Cormac Breatnach, a brother of one of the victims of the SCC, has won Irish and international awards –but the SCC continues in operation and to be supported by TDs year after year.

SHAME!

This year and last were the worst years in the existence of the undemocratic court, with lowest votes ever recorded against it. As the Abolish Special Courts campaign succinctly summarised the vote in the Dáil: “Shame on those who used to support the abolition of non-jury special courts who now vote in favour of it, abstain or don’t show up to vote at all.”

End.

Line-up of protesters for a photo as picket draws to a close (Photo : Anti-Imperialist Action)

SOURCES & REFERENCES

Vote and SF absence: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/politics/arid-40321172.html

Vote and Social Democrat amendment: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/oireachtas/sinn-f%C3%A9in-tds-leave-d%C3%A1il-before-vote-on-use-of-special-criminal-court-1.4601771

Content and history of the SCC: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Criminal_Court

British bomb helped repressive legislation to pass: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/british-behind-1972-dublin-attack-widow-tells-hearing-1.1296467

Most recent ICCL statement about the SCC: https://www.iccl.ie/2021/special-criminal-court-denying-fair-trial-rights-for-half-a-century/

Abolish the Special Courts campaign group: https://www.facebook.com/Abolish-The-Special-Courts-208341809705138

“Temporary Provisions” of “emergency legislation”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrorism_Act_2000

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prevention_of_Terrorism_Act_2005

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Emergency_laws_in_the_United_Kingdom

Some unjust convictions of political activists in the SCC: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/wronged-man-still-seeking-answers-40-years-after-sallins-train-robbery-1.3673264

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

Whistleblower Project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0rpGo6F6_Y

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/courts/state-facing-significant-compensation-bill-over-miscarriage-of-justice-1.4535359

NEW MATERNITY HOSPITAL SCANDAL – DEMAND AN ALL-PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE!

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 2 mins.)

Politicians were last week briefed by the Irish Department of Health to the effect that the construction costs of the projected National Maternity Hospital are expected to reach €800 million — and it appears that neither the land nor the management of the hospital will be under the control of the State. The project has been controversial from the outset, with issues of its location, cost and religious institutional management and now conflicting narratives on discussions of ownership of the land have appeared between the Government and the religious bodies involved.

It is precisely concerns over governance arrangements at the hospital, linked to ownership of the site, which have stalled progress on construction over the years, while projections of costs have grown from the original €150 million. The most recent estimate was around €350 million but on Friday, a spokesperson for Minister of Health Stephen Donnely said: “The building infrastructure cost has been priced at €500 million. Further commissioning costs, including fit-out and transferring an entire hospital to a new site, will be a further €300 million.”

The Religious Sisters of Charity, which order owns the land, is transferring it to the newly-created private charity St Vincent’s Holding CLG, which will then lease it to the State for 99 years. The directors and members of this new private charity are the shareholders of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, of which in turn the Sisters of Charity are the sole shareholders.

According to a report in the Irish Times, politicians were told on Thursday that several attempts had been made to purchase the site but this was contradicted by the religious institutions.

The Religious Sisters of Charity said it had “never at any point been contacted by Government or the State to discuss purchasing the site”, while SVHG – on whose campus the new hospital is to be located – said in a statement: “At no stage was any proposal or approach to sell the land, meaningful or otherwise, received or considered by the board of SVHG.”

While the text of a letter in 2017 from the St. Vincent’s Group may appear at one reading to contradict their later statement, another reading may see it as purely forestalling any attempt to purchase the site from them. The text, shown to the Irish Times presumably by Government sources reads: “This is why SVHG cannot countenance any sale or lease of part of the land on site, or any separate ownership of a hospital on site”.

The versions of the Government and of the religious institutions contradict one another and which is correct remains to be ascertained. What is certain however is that the religious institutions wish to control the site and at least influence governance, while at the same time it is the taxpayer who will fund the construction and the running costs of the hospital.

Asked on Saturday if the site might have to be abandoned for the hospital, the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said: “Of course there is that risk, that’s the reality of the situation.” He added: “This hospital has to be publicly owned and it has to be the case that any obstetric or gynaecological service that’s legal in the State has to be available in that hospital.”

Earlier, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister of Irish government) Mícheál Martin told RTÉ, the national TV network: “But there’s a very basic point in terms of the taxpayer, and I think into the future we’re in a new era, when the State is building new hospitals and paying the full total of the costs, the State should own the facility.”

UNHEALTHY SERVICE IN THE IRISH STATE

The Irish State has never had a comprehensive public health service, unlike the rest of Europe. When the State was created in 1921, there were a number of health care institutions run by the Catholic Church and the State integrated them into the state-funded service, leaving them under religious institutional management but providing them funding through the state’s health care budget. And so it continued to this day.

This means not only that the public taxes of residents of the Irish state are funding private health care but that those institutions are not answerable to the public in terms of policy on what they consider moral issues – in other words Catholic Church ideology. Hence it is not known at the moment whether the new proposed National Maternity Hospital will provide a service within the terms of what is legally permitted in the Irish state such as voluntary sterilisation, gender adjustment or IV fertilisation. Or pregnancy termination along the lines of what is agreed and desired by the majority of the citizens in the State, as shown in public opinion polls and the 2018 Referendum on Abortion.

In addition, private health centres compete with public services for funding and for staff.

The controversy around the governance and construction costs of the National Maternity Hospital is not alone since there is also another with regard to the projected National Children’s Hospital siting and construction costs, with BAM company claims against the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) totalling €300 million. The original construction cost estimate was €1.74 but some projections now are estimating an excess of €2 billion — and completion not until 2024.

Since construction companies in the Irish state are all private capitalist companies, these problems of course end up in the profits of the companies and a loss to the common taxpayers.

INCREASED HEALTH FUNDING – FOR WHOM?

Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste (Photo credit: Eamonn Farrell/ Rolling News)

The Tánaiste (Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar has stated that the funding of the State for the Health Service which was increased to deal with the Covid19 pandemic is not to be cut when the pandemic is over but will be kept at €22 billion. If the projected costs of the maternity hospital construction works of €800 million are going to come out of that (without any estimate on site purchase cost), it would leave only €21.2 billion to run the whole health service which is actually less than the 2018 budget of €22.5 billion. And if the €300 million of BAM’s claims were granted, this to be deducted from the budget, only €20.9 billion would remain.

If we assume that the projected construction costs of the National Maternity Hospital are to come from a different budget then it still leaves us the question of who is to benefit from the health budget, the public health service or the private services (Church and other).

In 2019, €1.311 Billion of public funding went to just five private health services1

  • Sisters of Mercy (including Mater Hospital, Mercy University Hospital — €432 million
  • Sisters of Charity (including St. Vincent’s University Hospital — €373 million
  • Brothers of Charity — €218 million
  • St. John of Gods – 166 million
  • Daughters of Charity €122 million

A TWO-TIER HEALTH SERVICE

The existence of private alongside public health care facilities creates a two-tier system, one with fast access to treatment alongside another with long, sometimes fatal delays (especially in the case of cancer diagnosis and treatment). Yet both are funded, as we have seen above, by the taxpayer.

With the disparity in waiting time and, to some extent quality of treatment, people who can do so of course tend to opt for the private service. And in order to afford that access, they take out private health insurance.

“According to the Health Insurance Authority, the average health insurance premium has increased from €423 per person in 2002 to €1,200 today”, “which has led to tripling of premium income for the insurance industry, from €822 million in 2002 to €2.5 Billion in 2016, as the numbers taking out insurance have also increased substantially.”2

IN CONCLUSION

It is not tolerable that our taxes are going to fund health care facilities that may not, because of religious ideology, provide a full service within what is legally permitted. Nor is it tolerable that our taxes are funding private healthcare facilities at all, never mind funding them to compete with public ones.It is not acceptable that our two-tier system discriminates against the less wealthy and promotes the huge growth in the private health insurance sector. Nor that people are being driven to take out private health insurance which has that sector’s companies raking in profits.

People resident in Ireland need and are entitled to a public health service that is well-funded and staffed to undertake timely illness prevention and health care at all levels in all areas of medicine. And a service that has the spare capacity to deal with emergencies without straining its facilities and harming its staff.

That is what we need and the vast majority of the population would support that, in this state and even in a united Ireland3. But which political party would give us that in government? Not FG, FF, Lab, Greens or SF, on any rational prediction. Although it would be just a reform, will it take a revolution to achieve it?

Let the religious fund their religious-ethos health services and let the rich fund their own private services but ALL PUBLIC FUNDING FOR ALL-PUBLIC SERVICES ONLY.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1From “A brief history of Ireland’s two-tier system”, (Rupture Issue 2, p.22).

2Ibid, p.23, quoting the HIA 2004 / 2005 report and Irish Times article.

3People in the Six Counties have a part of the UK’s NHS there and use and by all indications approve of a public health service.

SOURCES

Maternity Hospital news report: https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/fresh-controversy-emerges-over-maternity-hospital-as-state-offered-to-buy-land-1144144.html

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/projected-cost-of-national-maternity-hospital-now-800m-1.4597579

https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/government-outlines-concern-over-relocation-of-national-maternity-hospital-1143266.html

https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/new-location-may-be-needed-for-national-maternity-hospital-tanaiste-1144316.html

https://www.thejournal.ie/national-maternity-hospital-cpo-5472271-Jun2021/

Background to decision to build new hospital: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/q-a-why-is-the-national-maternity-hospital-moving-and-why-are-people-concerned-1.4579356

Government plan to expand Irish health service: https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/tanaiste-calls-for-e22-billion-health-budget-to-be-retained-permanently-1144208.html

Construction company suing over Children’s Hospital: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/contractor-bam-suing-national-children-s-hospital-board-in-20m-costs-dispute-1.4532352

Moratorium on BAM’s litigation: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40297367.html

National Children’s Hospital costs overrun: https://www.rte.ie/news/2021/0209/1196082-childrens-hospital-pac/

WHO KILLED GRENFELL?

Tim Evans

The blackened shell of the Grenfell Tower being hosed by fire fighters in 2017 (Photo sourced: Internet)
(Photo credit: Yui Mok/ PA)

Who killed Grenfell? Who was it killed the people of Grenfell?

Who put their lives at deadly peril?

Very well, I’ll resign, said Paget-Brown

But it wasn’t me who put them down.

I didn’t give them the runaround.

I didn’t want them out of town.

Their deaths aren’t down to my account.

No, I didn’t kill the people of Grenfell.

Who was it killed the people of Grenfell? Who put their lives at deadly peril?

Not us, said the leaders of the TMO

It shouldn’t be us that have to go.

We listened, we really listened, you know.

We dealt with their complaints like the seasoned pros

We are, and that our salaries show.

No, we didn’t kill the people of Grenfell.

Who was it killed the people of Grenfell? Who put their lives at deadly peril?

Not me, said Housing Minister Barwell.

I was always a hundred per cent impartial.

My door was always open wide, as normal.

We had endless meetings, minuted and formal.

My interests were in no way commercial.

No, I didn’t kill the people of Grenfell.

Who was it killed the people of Grenfell? Who put their lives at deadly peril?

Not us, said the 72 Tory MPs.

We never voted down that amendment, you see,

To make rented properties safe and clean.

And while we’re all landlords, as it seems,

We didn’t kill the people of Grenfell.

Who was it killed the people of Grenfell? Who put their lives at deadly peril?

It wasn’t me, said Boris Johnson.

I closed 10 fire stations? That’s just nonsense.

The Knightsbridge one was of special importance.

Just next to Grenfell, by all the evidence.

Thank God I don’t have that on my conscience.

No, I didn’t kill the people of Grenfell.

Who was it killed the people of Grenfell? Who put their lives at deadly peril?

Not us, said the British Government.

You can’t threaten any of us with imprisonment.

A bonfire of regulations, that was our sentiment.

Health and safety just filled us with merriment.

For business and profits, there must be no impediment.

We didn’t kill the people of Grenfell

We didn’t kill the people of Grenfell

We didn’t kill the people of Grenfell

We didn’t kill the people of Grenfell.

(Photo credit AP)

NOTE

On 14 June 2017 a catastrophic fire in the Grenfell tower block in West London caused 72 deaths and 70 injuries and made hundreds homeless. Four years later and nobody has been held to account for what the then Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, called ‘social murder’ – criminal irresponsibility, cowardice and racism by the Tory Government. We will not rest until the guilty are brought to book. No justice – no peace.

The poem will appear in my next collection, ‘Bones of the Apocalypse’, published by Frequency Press. Tim Evans

(Photo credit: DailyTelegraph)
(Photo credit: Guardian)