The Trauma of Child Homelessnessby 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.
“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.
In 1843 the lyrics of In Memory of the Dead were published anonymously in The Nation but it seems to have been an open secret in Dublin political circles that the author was John Kells Ingram. As often happens, the song became known by its opening line “Who Fears to Speak of ‘98” and years later Ingram admitted having written the lyrics. Though it never once mentions Daniel O’Connell, taken in context of its subject, time and where it was published, the song was a blistering attack on the politician and his Repeal of the Union organisation. Yet while Kells Ingram was many things, he was no revolutionary — unlike the editors of the Nation and many of its readers.
John Kells Ingram was a mildly nationalist mathematician, economist, philosopher and poet who was selected to write expert entries for the Encyclopedia Britannica. But although he was no revolutionary it is clear that he felt a distaste for O’Connell’s distancing himself from the memory of those who had risen in rebellion four decades earlier.
Supporting O’Connell initially, The Nation sought to create a patriotic and indeed revolutionary culture through its pages. One of The Nation’s founders and editors, Thomas Davis was perforce also one of the periodical’s contributors and his compositions The West’s Awake and A Nation Once Again are still sung today, the latter very nearly becoming Ireland’s national anthem. The lyrics of Who Fears to Speak celebrated historical memory of resistance and lamented death and exile, the latter to the USA, where many of the surviving United Irish had gone (“across the Atlantic foam“). Davis’ In Bodenstown’s Churchyard, commemorated and celebrated Theobald Wolfe Tone, remembered as the father of Irish Republicanism and martyr.
Three years after co-founding The Nation, Thomas Davis died of scarlet fever in 1845, a few months short of his 31st birthday. Two years later, in “Black ‘47”, the worst year of the Great Hunger, the Young Irelanders finally and formally split from O’Connell’s Repeal Movement and in 1848 had their ill-fated and short uprising – again jail and exile for the leaders followed. Just under a score of years later, 1867 saw the tardy and unsuccessful rising of the Fenians with again, resultant jail sentences and exile (in addition to the executions of the Manchester Martyrs).
Two years following the rising of the Young Irelanders, in 1850 Arthur M. Forrester was born near Manchester in Salford, England (the “Dirty Old Town” of Ewan McColl) and in 1869 his stirring words of The Felons of Our Land appeared in Songs of a Rising Nation and other poetry (Felons reprinted by Kearney Brothers in a 1922 collection including songs by Thomas Davis). Songs of a Rising Nation was a collection published by the militant and resourceful Ellen Forrester from Clones, Co. Monaghan, who struggled to raise her children after the early death of her husband and included poems by her son Arthur and daughter Cathy.
Felons of Our Land indeed contains some of the themes of Who Fears to Speak (of which Arthur was doubtless aware) but in addition those of jail and death on the scaffold. By that time, the Young Irelanders had been added to the imprisoned and exiled, some in escape to the USA but others to penal colony in the Australias. And Forester added the theme of pride in our political prisoners:
A felon’s cap’s the noblest crown
an Irish head can wear.
We love them yet, we can’t forget
the felons of our land.
Twenty years after the publication of The Felons of Our Land, in 1889, another Irishman, Jim Connell, writing in SE London, would contribute the lyrics of the anthem of the working class in Britain, The Red Flag. Although commonly sung to the air of a German Christmas carol, Connell himself put it to the the traditional Jacobite air of The White Cockade. Connell, from Crossakiel in Co. Meath, also invoked historical memory and included the theme of martyrdom in explanation of the flag’s colour:
The workers’ flag is deepest red —
it shrouded oft’ our martyrs dead,
And ‘ere their limbs grew stiff and cold
their life’s blood dyed its every fold.
The traditions and themes of resistance and struggle are handed from generation to generation and song is one of the vehicles of that transmission. But songwriters borrow themes not just from history but from the very songs of the singers and songwriters before them. In 1869 Arthur M. Forrester wrote in Who Fears to Speak of ‘98:
Let cowards mock and tyrants frown
ah, little do we care ….
Jim Connell, three decades later, took up not only the themes but also that line:
Let cowards mock and traitors sneer,
we’ll keep the red flag flying here.
References in lyrics to themes
In Who Fears to Speak of ‘98 (1843)
Some on a far-off distant land
their weary hearts have laid
And by the stranger’s heedless hands
their lonely graves were made.
But though their clay
be far away
Across the Atlantic foam …
In The Felons of Our Land (1869)
“…We’ll drink a toast
to comrades far away …
…. or flee, outlawed and banned
In The Red Flag (1889)
In Who Fears to Speak of ‘98 (1843)
In The Felons of Our Land(1869)
(Apart from the title and refrain)
… though they sleep in dungeons deep
Some in the convict’s dreary cell
have found a living tomb
And some unseen unfriended fell
within the dungeon’s gloom …
A felon’s cap’s the noblest crown
an Irish head can wear……
In The Red Flag (1889)
Come dungeons dark or gallows grim ….
of martyred death:
In Who Fears to Speak of ‘98 (1843)
Alas that might should conquer right,
they fell and passed away …..
In The Felons of Our Land (1869)
….. Some on the scaffold proudly died …
In The Red Flag (1889)
….. their life’s blood dyed its every fold ….
….. to bear it onward til we fall;
Come dungeons dark or gallows grim,
this song shall be our parting hymn.
of cowards and/ or traitors:
In Who Fears to Speak of ‘98 (1843)
Who fears to speak of ‘98,
who blushes at the name?
When cowards mock the patriot’s fate,
who hangs his head for shame?
He’s all a knave or half a slave
Who slights his country thus …
In The Felons of Our Land (1869)
…. And brothers say, shall we, today,
unmoved like cowards stand,While traitors shame and foes defame,
the Felons of our Land.
Let cowards mock and tyrants frown, …
In The Red Flag (1889)
. ..Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer (repeated in the chorus, sung six times)
It suits today the weak and base, Whose minds are fixed on pelf and place To cringe before the rich man’s frown, And haul the sacred emblem down.
of the higher moral fibre of revolutionaries:
In Who Fears to Speak of ‘98 (1843)
Repeated reference in every verse to such as
a true man, like you man and you men, be true men etc.
Alas that Might should conquer Right ….
In The Felons of Our Land (1869)
… No nation on earth can boast of braver hearts than they ….
And every Gael in Inishfail,
who scorns the serf’s vile brand,
From Lee to Boyne would gladly join
the felons of our land.
In The Red Flag (1889)
The banner bright, the symbol plain, Of human right and human gain.
With heads uncovered swear we all To bear it onward till we fall; Come dungeons dark or gallows grim, This song shall be our parting hymn.
of eventual victory:
In Who Fears to Speak of ‘98 (1843)
… a fiery blaze that nothing can withstand …
In The Felons of Our Land (1869)
None – but inferred.
In The Red Flag (1889)
It well recalls the triumphs past, It gives the hope of peace at last; The banner bright, the symbol plain, Of human right and human gain.
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.
SINNFÉIN ABANDONS DECADES OF OPPOSITION TO THE SPECIAL CRIMINALCOURT
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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
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.
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.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has described comments by the Government of Israel as “nonsense”. “We all know what happened here. Don’t be hiding behind excuses,” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.
Mr Martin said that the action of the Israeli authorities was contrary to decency and democratic values. The Taoiseach said he was worried about the growing authoritarianism in the world. “It was not acceptable. Democratic countries had to stand up.”
Referring to the armed boarding of Irish relief ships bound for Gaza in 2010, he said it had been a “State-sponsored” coercive act, it was absolutely unacceptable.
Mr Martin said he was meeting with Ministers from Lithuania and Greece to discuss a coordinated EU response and a strong response from the EU was now required.
Coveney condemned Israel for ‘hijacking’ of Irish ship
The Israeli armed boarding of an Irish ship amounted to “piracy”, the Foreign Affairs Minister has said. Simon Coveney said the incident in 2010, which saw a relief ship from Ireland to Gaza boarded over a supposed security concern, was a “state-sponsored hijacking”.
Mr Coveney said that the Israeli regime “has no democratic legitimacy” and called on the EU to show a “clear and tough response”. He told RTE radio he “would like to speak to” the Israeli consul in Dublin, but stopped short of advocating the banishment of all diplomats across the EU.
There has to be “a real edge” to any sanctions imposed and the EU must go beyond “strong press releases”, he added.
Yes, reader, you’re right, that response from Irish Government Ministers was regarding the recent Belarus forcing down of a plane and never occurred during the recent Israeli attack on Gaza (nor in 2014, nor in 2008), nor during its illegal armed boarding and seizing control of an Irish relief ship on the high seas in 2010. Because the Irish State generally takes its line from the USA, which in turn backs up Israel. Belarus however has only Russia backing it and the EU and the USA power blocs are opposed to the Russian one.
In May 2010, when the Gaza flotilla relief convoy was seized (and Turkish citizens killed) by Israeli armed forces, the Irish ship was delayed and sailed later but was also seized in June, forced to go to an Israeli port, the possessions of all crew and passengers seized, their computer and phone memories inspected and they were kept in jail until sent back by plane (often without their possessions). The Irish Government did complain but without denouncing the Israeli Government in the same terms, nor did it call for EU-wide action and, once the Irish citizens were returned, quietly dropped the whole matter.
Thousands rallied in the centre of Dublin today, Saturday 22nd May, to express their solidarity with the Palestinian people and their outraged opposition to the murderous attacks on them by the Israeli State. From O’Connell Street they marched across O’Connell Bridge, into Dawson Street and from there straight along Mount Street, across the Grand Canal and on to the Israeli Embassy. Speakers emphasised that the ceasefire, even if it holds, is in essence temporary, since the Israeli occupation has led to war after war and must inevitably lead to another, stating the need therefore to work for an end to the apartheid and similar policies of the Israeli state.
The event was organised by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which had an acapella singing group perform a few songs at the Spire and a number of speakers before they set off on the 3 km march and more speakers outside the Embassy too. Conservative estimates put the number on the march at over 5,000. The slogans shouted for the most part were: “Free, free Palestine!” “One, two, three four – Occupation no more!”; “Five, six, seven, eight – Israel is a terrorist state!” and “Boycott Israel!” “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” was another slogan.
The ceasefire is now in place since early yesterday (Friday). The current war began with two offensives by the Israeli Zionists on Palestinians in Jerusalem: the first by Israeli settlers harassing and threatening Palestinian residents in the Sheik Jarrah district that they are going to have them evicted because “all of Jerusalem should be Jewish only”; the other nearby in the vicinity of Al Aqsa mosque, where Israeli police harassed Muslims coming to celebrate the religious festival of Eid (this year on May 12th– 13th), culminating in an armed invasion of the temple by Israeli police firing rubber-tipped bullets and stun grenades at the devotees. However the dates fell close also to the anniversary of the Nakba, the Castastrophe of 15 May 1948, the founding of the Zionist state, massacres of Palestinians and expulsion of more than 700,000 refugees whose descendants are in many parts of the world today, forbidden by the Israeli authorities to return.
In the 11 days of war just past at least 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, have been killed by the Israeli forces, whilst on the Israeli side, despite hundreds of home-made Palestinian rockets fired at Israel, 12 people, including two children, have been killed. Many buildings in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza have been destroyed or part-destroyed, including hospitals and medical centres and there is major disruption to electrical service and water supply in a city which often experienced power and water flow cuts even in what passed for “normal” times in Gaza. Those killed were mostly in Gaza but Israeli forces killed 11 unarmed civilians in the West Bank also and wounded many, as they came on to the streets in solidarity with those in Gaza and in Jerusalem.
Street events in solidarity with Palestine were also held in cities and towns across Ireland, including Cork, Limerick, Galway, Belfast, Derry and in fact in most counties.
The police on this occasion did not carry out harassment of demonstrators1 but in at least one instance, in Northumberland Road, stopped a section of the march to wave through traffic across it, putting uninvolved pedestrians crossing on a green light in danger. This occurred despite two marchers attempting to block the traffic, the Garda calling one a pejorative name and ordering him to stand aside.
This was a job for official stewards and in fact, there were far too few of these. I saw perhaps around 20 getting instructions from the Chief Steward before the march at the Spire, some of whom seemed inexperienced but around 50 stewards were needed for a march this size, with a core of around 30 experienced. Stewards could be seen at times enforcing the rule to wear masks, as some young people removed them to shout slogans but once the middle of the march neared the Canal it was rare to see a steward.
A Far-Right group calling themselves “Rise Up Eireann” (sic — who apparently don’t even know the official name of their country) had called for events in various parts of Ireland and had advertised the GPO as being one of the venues.
With apparent lack of awareness they scheduled theirs in Dublin for the same time as the Palestine solidarity rally, 2pm. No far-Right group was seen but one individual, a prominent QAnon activist posted a video of the Palestine solidarity marchers while voicing her disgust that the cops were not batoning or even harassing the demonstrator as they allegedly do to demonstrators demonstrating “for our civil rights.”2.
Speaker after speaker at the event pointed out that Israeli massacres and other onslaughts are often followed by ceasefires and back to “normal” oppression and theft of land, until the next war. As long as Israel is an apartheid occupying state, war is inevitable and so is oppression. Some speakers urged those present to encourage people in their social, educational, community and trade union groups to sign up to boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. A much more specific direction was given by Richard Boyd Barrett TD, who urged people to write emails to their TDs (parliamentary representatives) in advance of Tuesday’s debate in the Dáil, asking them to vote in favour of the “Occupied Territories” Bill.3
A young Palestinian speaker from a Jerusalem district spoke with passion and made an interesting point, that a demonstration such as this one would be labelled “terrorist” by the Israelis and people would be liable to be shot with live rounds as well as with less lethal projectiles and gas.
It is a terrible statistical fact that in Israeli attacks on Gaza, one quarter have been children. Outside the Israeli Embassy the crowd grew quiet as a child read out the names of the children killed in Gaza, which was followed by a call for a minute’s silence in respect. The crowd was so big that out on one of the fringes, they did not hear the call and were chanting slogans.
Other speakers included a Palestinian young woman Ola at the Spire and Mags O’Brien of SIPTU outside the Embassy, where Martin Quigley, former Chairperson of the IPSC launched into a denunciation of Israel and of the Biden and the USA’s role in Palestine.
YOUTH & STARRY PLOUGH
As with other Palestine solidarity marches recently, a significant part of the whole consisted of Palestinians and other Arabs, among which the youth were particularly noticeable with young women very much to the fore and vociferous. One group of young Arab women shouted slogans non-stop from O’Connell Street to Northumberland Road, where I parted company with them to take up another position and could hear them chanting still as they marched on.
One would hope these youth have opportunities to become organised and gain experience to be leaders of the future.
I brought two flags, a “Starry Plough”4 and one in Palestinian national colours, a friend carrying the ‘Plough most of the time. There was I heard only one other on the march. It is natural and proper that we carry and fly the Palestinian national colours but it seems to me that we should carry indications of Irishness too, to represent Ireland in solidarity with Palestine. This was represented in some placards but flags are more visible and it would be good to see more of them on Palestine solidarity demonstrations.
The Starry Plough flag also aroused interest with many asking what it represented and it was good to be able to tell them that it was the flag of the army of the Irish Citizen Army, the first working class army in the world, one which recruited women and that some of them were officers.
PLACARDS & BANNERS
1Prior to last Saturday (15th) the Irish police threatened the IPSC with intervening to stop the march and huge fines for responsible individuals under Covid19 legislation; luckily the Trinity BDS Campaign took on the risk of repercussions and called the demonstration instead. On Tuesday, for a smaller march, the Gardaí kept the Pembroke Road open despite the danger of rush-hour traffic to the crowd, then continually urged demonstrators in towards the Embassy, forcing them into close contact with others and, when this was pointed out to them, just shrugged.
2In actual fact, Far-Right groups seemed to enjoy complete impunity for months as they held rallies, pickets and marches, without wearing masks or socially distancing, including at the GPO, while nearby, people picketing is solidarity with political prisoners and Debenhams picketers were harassed by Gardaí. Also, at a Yellow Vests rally in August 2020 a mob organised by the fascist National Party attacked unarmed counter-protesters with iron bars and wooden clubs while the Gardaí, instead of arresting them, attacked the victims and drove them off the quay with raised batons and violent shoves (see “There Will Be Another Day” article on the Rebel Breeze blog). A few weeks later, the cops allowed members of the NP to attack a handful of women opponents in Kildare Street and to club one of them, then again drove the victims back. On both occasions the Gardaí told press afterwards that there had been no violence but in the second case had to amend their statement hours later and weeks later charge a fascist individual with the assault.
3Under international law, it is illegal for Israel or Israeli settlers to sell products from the Occupied territories in Palestine, since they are even by UN law illegally occupied. However, the products are exported and sold in many parts of the world including all over Europe. The “Occupied Territories” Bill, if passed into Irish law, would make it an offence to import or re-sell products from those territories and would have an economic as well as a political impact. Although the Bill was framed in 2018 and supported by all political parties except Fine Gael, the Government has dragged its heels about bringing it before the Dáil to be discussed and Tuesday’s will be its Third Reading after which, with enough votes in favour, it will become law.
4“The Starry Plough” is modeled on the shape of the Ursa Mayor constellation. The original version has a green field with a plough in gold following the shape of the constellation, with the seven stars in white or silver. The plough has a sword in the position of the ploughshare. The later version, from the Republican Congress, is on a blue field with the the seven stars only in white (or silver) following the shape of Ursa Mayor and no other feature.
A rally today outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin heard Palestinian speakers and an Irish socialist TD (Member of the Irish Parliament) denounce Israel’s attacks on Palestinians, its slaughter of civilians including children and women, call for sanctions against Israel and for its Ambassador to be expelled. The rally was jointly organised by Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Trinity BDS Campaign in solidarity with the Palestinians and with the general strike organised in Palestine.
Fatin Al Tamimi, Chair of the IPSC, opened the meeting, welcoming people and, to loud cheers, declared that she is “a Palestinian and proud to be a Palestinian”. Fatin went on to list the numbers of Palestinians dead and injured, the numbers of those who were women and children and called the Israeli regime “racist, apartheid” and murderous and called for the boycott of Israeli goods, alluding to the famous 1970s Dunne’s Stores workers’ strike in support of boycott of South African goods during the white minority apartheid regime. Fatin’s pauses were punctuated by demonstrators chanting “Free, free Palestine!” and “Boycott Israel!” At one point she said that she had children born here but they would also always be Palestinian and she hoped one day to go back and to welcome all the Irish supporter to a free Palestine, which brought a tremendous cheer from the crowd.
She introduced Wesam Ahmed, from Al Haq, the main Palestine human rights organisation, who spoke through an audio link from Palestine.
Dr. Ibrahim Natil, a DCU academic also spoke, as did Zayd, representing Trinity BDS Campaign.
All the speakers called for stepping up of solidarity action, boycott, divestment and sanctions but also for action by the Irish government, both in their current temporary membership of the United Nations Security Council and in the EU.
Richard Boyd Barrett TD told the crowd that he and Gino Kelly and Paul Murphy had all tackled Mícheál Martin in the Dáil (Irish Parliament) earlier during Taoiseach’s Questions and Martin had claimed he had criticised Israel while also criticising the rockets fired by Hamas. Boyd Barrett said that we had to get rid of this discourse of equivalence because there is no equivalence between the positions of the Israeli Zionists and the Palestinians, neither in terms of justice nor in power, military or otherwise.
Fatin Tamimi also called for solidarity with all the Palestinian political prisoners
GARDA HARASSMENT CONTINUES
The Irish police, the Gardaí continued to display on Tuesday the hostility they had exhibited in advance of last Saturday’s demonstration, when they threatened the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign that if they went ahead with their advertised rally the Gardaí would intervene and threatened the organisers with €5,000 fines and possible jail sentences. Fortunately the Trinity BDS Campaign group had stepped in and held the rally, which turned into a march supported by several thousand.
The Gardaí began on Tuesday by telling supporters as they arrived that they were required to spread out to social distancing but were soon ushering people in towards one another. A woman next to me complained to a Garda that he was moving her into close proximity with other people and violation of social distancing — the Garda shrugged. As they continued to urge people to push in towards the already crowded space, the Gardaí continually urged traffic to come through and kept repeating to rally supporters that “The road is open”. Indeed it was and the question is why was it open? Clearly forcing traffic through put people in danger of vehicle impact or Covid19 infection; the safest measure and easily enough done would have been to divert the traffic before it reached the rally. But no — the Palestinian solidarity supporters were to be shown that the Gardaí are not to be gainsaid.
I find it interesting to collect some photos of the placards displayed at these events and in particular, some of the homemade ones. These are interesting in a number of ways, some humorous, some very pointed, some quite artistic but they are all also individual expressions and a kind of commitment, to make something in advance to bring to the demonstration or rally.
There was one in Irish but sadly the only one I could find. Will there be more at the next demonstration? If the Irish language is not audible and visible in the progressive sector of society, how are we to expect it to survive, never mind thrive?
A SPACE FOR THE YOUTH
As the rally came to an end, one could observe Palestinian and some other youth, many in their teens coming together to chat but also to chant slogans. I have seen this before and it appears that this point in events is their space — but it is a dangerous one with the event formally ended and the organisers dispersing, making it easier for repressive moves to be made against them or also to be led into acts which may end in their arrest. Of course it is the organisers dispersing, adults socialising etc that also allows them to make it their space.
The youth need a space of their own but one which is also safe and in which they can be helped to consider consequences and effective action. Generally political organisations do not give the youth that space and, when they do, tend to confine them to following the line of the leaders, who are generally much older.
If organisations do not provide those spaces and assist the youth in self-organising, the likelihood is that others will and, in the case of Palestinians or Arabs in general, those others may be Islamic fundamentalists.
RALLY AGAIN NEXT SATURDAY, 2pm at the Spire, Dublin.
There is a slight sense of futility in what speakers ask us to do because justified as the calls are, there seems little hope of convincing most of our politicians of breaking radically with the western imperialist alliance, even though Ireland is not, generally speaking, itself an imperialist country. And yes, we can continue boycotting but how much of the stock in the supermarkets continues to be from Israel? And when it is, if one supermarket comes under heavy pressure, the management will often just temporarily remove the products from the targeted shop while they continue to be sold in the others. And once the pressure is off, the produce might be back on the shelves. And even if they’re not …. What can we actually DO that will make a real difference?
In one way, nothing, since the USA is the main backer of the Zionist state and the USA is the world’s major superpower. But in another way, we are making a difference, though it is not easy to see sometimes. Despite our rulers, Ireland has become the most pro-Palestinian country in Europe. Out of that may come great things in the future.
But it seems to me that there is more that we could do. Many Irish trade unions formally support the Palestinians — could they not put a motion in their annual conferences calling on the Government to expel the Ambassador? Could they not at least put a pro-Palestinian poster on each workplace union noticeboard and also advertise each solidarity march? I know that the unions are not anything like the fighting organisations they once were but that above is surely not asking too much.
The oppression of the Palestinians led to an outbreak of active resistance recently in Jerusalem, to which the Israeli Army reacted with increased repression, timed to harass Palestinian Muslims during the period of Ramadan and the height of devotees attending the Al-Aqsa mosque, escalating into attacks on worshippers within the temple itself. At the same time, Israeli Zionist settlers threatened dozens of Palestinian families with eviction from their homes in East Jerusalem. Reacting to these events, one of the Palestinian organisations fired home-made rockets into officially Israeli territory, to which the Israeli armed forces responded in turn with drone missiles and missiles from its air force jets on Gaza. As Palestinians in the West Bank came out on to the streets to protest, they were fired on with live ammunition by Israeli soldiers. The death toll has climbed to 200 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, including 59 children and 35 women, with 1,305 people wounded; while ten Israelis have been killed, two of them children.
The casualty figures once again show the gross disproportion between what the Palestinians and their Zionist masters experience: in civil and human rights, citizenship, in land ownership, electricity and clean water supply, heating, fishing, education facilities, building materials, freedom to travel inside and outside the state, in depth and breadth of surveillance, in arms and defence capability, in states that support them. And in city structural damage: despite the many home-made rockets launched against the zionists, there has yet been no significant damage in Israeli towns, while their armed forces have effected large-scale structural damage in Gaza and bodies are still being pulled from the rubble.
In only one area perhaps do the Palestinians have the advantage over the Israeli Zionists: in support among the people around the world.
PALESTINIAN SOLIDARITY MARCH DEFIES POLICE THREATS
Responding to these attacks on Palestinians the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the main organisation for Palestinian solidarity in Ireland, called for solidarity demonstrations and in particular advertised a solidarity rally to take place in Dublin’s city centre for 2pm on Saturday 15th May, asking those in attendance to comply with measures against Covid19 infection, to wear masks, maintain social distancing and comply with stewards’ instructions.
The IPSC was contacted by the Irish police force, the Gardaí, who told them not to go ahead with the event, that if they did they would intervene to stop it and also made threats of €5,000 fines and prison against the organisers. In a later public statement the Gardaí declared that they “have no role in permitting or authorising marches or gatherings. There is no permit/ authorisation required for such events”! But there is apparently an ability and power to intimidate and threaten progressive organisations to deter them from organising solidarity events.
Or to kettle socialist and socialist republican Mayday marchers and demand all their names, addresses and dates of birth before threatening them with arrest if they did not disperse. Or to threaten Debenham workers and their supporters, assaulting some of them while escorting KPMG forces in to evaluate stocks during pandemic restrictions.
The predicament of the IPSC exposed the vulnerability to this kind of intimidation of a broad organisation that seeks to win friends in ruling circles. The leaders and organisers are placed in a position of not only personal but also of organisational vulnerability. Even should they be prepared to defy the State to fine and/or imprison them, would they also be prepared to damage their organisation, to lose some friends they are cultivating in the circles of political influence? What was one of the strengths of a broad organisation can thus be converted into a weakness, whereas a more radical or even revolutionary organisation, with less influence in influential circles can decide on defiance, risk fines and jail with however perhaps less possibility of influencing official opinion and ultimately, action.
Fortunately in this case one such organisation did step forward and took up the baton: the Trinity College BDS group expressed its solidarity with the IPSC on its treatment by the Gardaí and called their own rally for the exact same place and time as the original one called by the IPSC.
Video of rally at end of demonstration, near Israeli Embassy
Despite concern over Covid19 transmission and Garda threats – and the extremely short notice and much smaller circle of contacts of the TC BDS group — the response was magnificent, both in expression of internationalist solidarity and in maintenance of the right of the people in Ireland to organise such progressive events.
Before the appointed hour, people began to gather in large numbers at the Spire in O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main street and north city centre and, after being addressed by a number of speakers, set off in a march towards the Israeli Zionist Embassy near Ballsbridge, beyond the south city centre. As they marched their numbers grew until, approaching the Embassy, they numbered several thousand. Along the way, bystanders applauded the marchers and passing vehicles blew their horns in solidarity.
Marchers shouted slogans of solidarity with the Palestinians, calling for the freedom of Palestine and the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador as a mark of the Irish people’s objection to what is being done to the Palestinians.
Near the Embassy, a number of speakers addressed the crowd and after dispersing, a number of demonstrators boarding public transport to return home were congratulated by the drivers.
LESSONS FOR US
The situation regarding calling and holding the demonstration in Dublin outlined some of the weaknesses of a broad organisation when it faces repression from the State and the greater resilience of a smaller organisation in being able to defy the State. It may be necessary in future to maintain support for both types of organisation, each being appropriate for particular situations.
Also demonstrated was the necessity to openly defy unjust laws and prohibitions at times and particularly around the right to organise, to protest and to show solidarity, which the demonstrators did so well on Saturday. Such situations also reveal the difficulty for the Gardaí in carrying out repressive actions and they are reduced to threatening individuals.
THE FAR-RIGHT MARCHES TOO – FOR WHAT?
Meanwhile, a couple of hundred of the far-Right also marched in Dublin, allegedly in defence of civil liberty. Not in solidarity with the Palestinians’ civil liberties and not in defence of our civil liberty to organise to show solidarity with people in other struggles. No, they marched in defence of the right to defy health protection regulations, in proclaiming the Covid19 pandemic to be a) a hoax or b) greatly exaggerated, in claiming that wearing masks damages one’s health and even intelligence(!), in insisting that vaccinations are a) dangerous to one’s health or b) means of injecting nano-machines into people’s bloodstream in order to control them.
A clip posted by Ireland Against Fascism showed one of the QAnon Saturday screechers for months outside the GPO, Dolores Webster, aka Dee Wall, lately self-declared “digital journalist” (don’t laugh), in total ignorance of the actual reality (but when has that mattered?), broadcast a claim by video from her studio (her car), accompanied by the strains of Abba from the headphones of her head-bobbing passenger, that the “scum in the Dawl” had allowed the Palestinian solidarity march to go ahead to distract from the alleged general removal of freedom and in particular from the far-Right group Irish Yellow Vests to hold their rally on May 1st.
When all the Covid19 precautionary restrictions are removed, what will these elements have to march about? The will need to return to the topics that engaged many of them in the recent past: racism, anti-immigrants, islamophobia, homophobia and anti-socialism, along with their false patriotism. None of that is welcome of course but at least it will be without this false concern for “civil rights and freedom” and closer to the reality of what the far-Right in general stand for – and fascists in particular.
SUPERPOWER BACKING AND IMPUNITY
The current atrocities of the Zionist State, which it carries out with impunity, along with its history, starkly reveals the effect of its main backing power, the USA, and the imperialist alliance dominated by that Power. The USA backs Israel with military aid to the tune of $10 Million daily, which is aside from other direct and indirect aid. Israel is the only state in the Middle East which is not only very friendly to the USA but totally dependent on the support of that superpower. For the ruling class of the USA, Israel is the only state in the Middle East which is totally safe forever from fundamentalist Muslim revolution or from left-wing anti-imperialist revolution and is therefore an extremely important factor in the USA’s plans to totally dominate the Middle East.
This imperialist alliance finds reflection not only in the action/ inaction of governments in Europe, for example but also in the reporting of the mass media. One of the latter’s tropes is the constant emphasis on the numbers of Palestinian missiles fired, without revealing their general ineffectiveness in delivering destruction, in total contrast to the Israeli missiles. Another is their constant repetition of a lie, that “Hamas seized power in Gaza”. The truth is that Hamas swept the board in the Palestinian Authority elections in 2006. The “seizing” that was done was by Al Fatah, which usurped the results in the West Bank and installed themselves there; they tried to do the same in Gaza and, in a short fierce struggle, were beaten.
But the Western powers decided that Hamas was illegitimately in power, seized funds due to it and supported its blockading – by both Israel and Egypt. No explanation is offered in the general mass media as to how a generally politically-secular Palestinian public would turn from its decades of allegiance to Fatah to vote for the fundamentalist Muslim Hamas, which was Fatah’s surrender of the goals of Palestinian independence and freedom and the return of the refugees, in exchange for running a colonial administration with opportunities for living off bribery and corruption and Fatah’s settling down to that status quo.
CASTING A GIANT DARK SHADOW
It was not only in Dublin and in towns across Ireland that Palestine solidarity demonstrations were held on May 15th but by people across much of the world, generally in opposition to the wishes of their governments and ruling elites. It is worth thinking about how this has come about, in particular in contradiction to a mass media hostile to the Palestinians.
The Zionist state of Israel was declared in 1948, its anniversary actually only three days ago – May 14th, the first states to recognise it being the USA and the USSR. In Ireland at the time, there was general support for the new state which continued to the “June War” of 1967 and somewhat beyond. The general Irish population were horrified by the history of the Nazi-organised Holocaust and sympathised with the Jewish survivors. Irish nationalists and even Republicans empathised with the Zionist civil and armed struggle against the British (who, ironically, had begun the process of Zionisisation of Palestine). The 1966 film Cast a Giant Shadow purporting to show that struggle, starring Kirk Douglas and a cameo appearance by Frank Sinatra, was widely enjoyed and cheered in cinemas across Ireland. Though some of the film’s characters were based on real-life counterparts, the general narrative was a grotesque distortion, hiding the massacres of Palestinians and the expulsion of thousands as the Zionist state was created.
Many Irish language supporters admired how the new state had brought the Hebrew language, for centuries only spoken in religious contexts, back into everyday usage.
Yet, a few years ago, general pro-Palestinian sympathy across Ireland had become so strong that Israel’s Ambassador to Ireland declared the country “the most anti-semitic in Europe”. That of course is what the Zionists call anyone who supports the Palestinians or criticises the Israeli state harshly and only a few days ago, the current Ambassador accused some politicians of spewing hate towards Israel. He was responding not only to Left and Sinn Féin TDs who criticised the actions of Israel towards the Palestinians, but also to the Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister equivalent) Leo Varadkar who commented that Israel’s actions are “indefensible” and Government Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, who said at an EU conference that the EU had “fallen short” and failed to project its influence in agreeing a common position in opposition to illegal activity by the Israelis against Palestinians.
The fact that establishment right-wing politicians feel obliged to take a public stand, however ineffectively, against actions of the Israeli Zionists and implicitly against the Zionists’ biggest international backer and world superpower, the USA, is a strong indication of how much Irish public opinion has changed over decades. Since the Cast a Giant Shadow film, the state’s shadow of which we are aware now is indeed frighteningly giant and very dark. In response, the natural cultural and historical feelings of the Irish people have stirred in sympathy with the oppressed Palestinians – and in defiance of threatened police repression at home.