While the world is awash in central banker created Potemkin village analogies, Ireland has gone one step further. In a little over two weeks, the self-important leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) will be meeting at the Lough Erne Golf Resort in Northern Ireland. There’s a slight problem, however. Ireland’s economy is in shambles and many of the neighboring towns are in horrible shape. So what’s the solution? Simple, just pretend nothing’s wrong by remodeling storefronts long since abandoned just as you would in a Hollywood set. What about those pesky abandoned buildings and other eyesores of blight and destitution? No problem, just place colorful murals in front of them. It makes sense. After all, the response by the G8 to the financial collapse since the beginning has been to cover it up and pretend nothing happened
Via Michael Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,
Ireland’s Big Lie: Town Gets Cheap, Superficial Makeover Ahead of the G8 Summit
In a little over two weeks, the self-important leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) will be meeting at the Lough Erne Golf Resort in Northern Ireland. There’s a slight problem, however. Ireland’s economy is in shambles and many of the neighboring towns are in horrible shape. While real economic collapse doesn’t seem to bother Ireland’s leaders, the thought of Barack Obama, Shinzo Abe and David Cameron having to confront the realities of poverty while feasting on caviar and foie gras is simply too much to bare.
So what’s the solution? Simple, just pretend nothing’s wrong by remodeling storefronts long since abandoned just as you would in a Hollywood set. What about those pesky abandoned buildings and other eyesores of blight and destitution? No problem, just place colorful murals in front of them. It makes sense. After all, the response by the G8 to the financial collapse since the beginning has been to cover it up and pretend nothing happened. At least the meme is consistent across the Western World. From the Irish Times:
Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on a Fermanagh facelift as the county prepares for the G8 summit in just under three weeks’ time, but locals complain the work paid for by the local council and the Stormont Executive is little more than skin deep.
More than 100 properties within range of the sumptuous Lough Erne resort which hosts the world’s wealthiest leaders, have been tidied up, painted or power-hosed.
However, locals say the makeover only serves to hide a deeper malaise which US president Barack Obama, German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president François Hollande and others will not get to see.
Two shops in Belcoo, right on the border with Blacklion, Co Cavan, have been painted over to appear as thriving businesses. The reality, as in other parts of the county, is rather more stark.
Just a few weeks ago, Flanagan’s – a former butcher’s and vegetable shop in the neat village – was cleaned and repainted with bespoke images of a thriving business placed in the windows. Any G8 delegate passing on the way to discuss global capitalism would easily be fooled into thinking that all is well with the free-market system in Fermanagh. But, the facts are different.
“That work happened just a few weeks ago,” he said. “The council got that place painted but it went under sometime last year.
The butcher’s business has been replaced by a picture of a butcher’s business.Across the road is a similar tale. A small business premises has been made to look like an office supplies store. It used to be a pharmacy, now relocated on the village main street.
Elsewhere in Fermanagh, billboard-sized pictures of the gorgeous scenery have been located to mask the occasional stark and abandoned building site or other eyesore.
Farmer Willie Corduff is just one of the Irish taxpayers that have to pick up Statoils bill on the Coribb-project.
The cost overrun is mainly due to poor handling of local residents’ protests. Locals complain of lack of dialogue with the oil companies, little information, and fear of getting a pipeline almost under their houses.
The intense protests have delayed the project and made it more expensive.
Paradoxically enough, though, it is the Irish themselves who must foot the bill for the extra due the country’s legislation. Losses for companies are tax-deductible.
Ireland’s favourable tax policy means Statoil’s losses could actually be very small. Losses, capital costs, and exploration costs can be written off against future income in their entirety, while the tax rate is only 25 per cent.
Irish tax havens
Ireland has long been known to have very favourable tax rules for companies. Both the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and organisation Tax Justice Network defines the country as a tax haven – a term often associated with palm-treed islands in distant waters.
Standard corporation tax in Ireland is 12.5 per cent, which has successfully tempted Internet giant Google to establish its European headquarters in the country. Apple has also received criticism for using the Irish’ tax regime to evade taxes. Apple top Tim Cook had to answer to the US Congress regarding the practice last week.
Norway pays nothing
Statoil’s multi-billion kroner loss falls to the Irish to pay in its entirety, while Norwegian taxpayers remain unencumbered. It would have been different had the project been in Norway.
Companies can write off about 78 per cent of their losses here. This rate may be reduced if the government succeeds in getting its planned tax changes through.
In return, the Norwegian government receives 78 per cent of the hydrocarbon industry’s profits.
“There’s no doubt the tax system is attractive for oil companies. It must be this way, however, to draw companies here. Very few significant discoveries have been made in this country and the outlook for revenues is uncertain. In many ways, Ireland is where Norway was before the Ekofisk discovery in the ‘60s,” says Fergus Cahill, head of the Irish Offshore Operators’ Association.
The oil companies decided
Many among the Irish population are sceptical to the favourable tax regime for oil companies. Padraigh Cambell is a former rig worker and has been a spokesperson union Siptu. He knows Irish history oil well.
“What taxation authorities drew up in the ‘80s was based on what the oil companies said. They dictated the terms; 25 per cent tax and 100 per cent depreciation. All expenses 25 years back in time can be written off, as well as gifts, sponsorships, everything! Politicians said that this would be good for Ireland, but now the situation is that the supply business happens from Scotland, for example. So the oil-related costs can then be written off in Ireland. We want the Norwegian model. We want jobs for Irish ports, Irish companies, and Irish workers,” says Mr Campbell.
The controversial gas pipeline from the Corrib field comes ashore near the town of Rossport, northwest Ireland. Several residents in the town neither believe Ireland will benefit from the Corrib field because depreciation rules are so favourable, nor that the country will not get tax revenues.
“People in Norway will benefit from the project through Statoil. We’re not going to profit from it because of the Irish tax rules,” says farmer Willie Corduff.
Fergus Cahill in the Irish Offshore Operators’ Association disagrees.
“I know this is a popular argument among some opponents of the hydrocarbon industry in Ireland. Calculations by the authorities show that tax revenues from commercial fields will be substantial – even in relation to the present system,” Mr Cahill says.
Modified in 2007
The Irish government has announced a review of the tax system in the autumn. However, there is nothing to suggest that this will result in the country approaching the tax system as it presently is in Norway.
“I struggle to understand how anyone can expect we’ll have a Norwegian tax system without having Norway’s amounts of commercial discoveries,” newspaper The Irish Times reported Ireland’s Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte saying at a hearing earlier in May.
The system was also changed in 2007. Authorities then introduced a surplus tax of up to 15 per cent that could bring the total tax rate up to 40 per cent, depending on the project’s profitability. The change was not retroactive, and has no significance for the Corrib project Statoil is involved in.
Statoil’s annual report on its 2011 operations in Ireland shows total national losses of EUR 1.3 billion (almost NOK 10 billion), but that this can be written off against future taxable income.
In 1997, Statoil also recorded an approximately EUR 159 million (NOK 1.2 billion) loss in the Connemara area of Ireland, when it was determined that the field was not commercial. Irish rules are designed so that losses and expenses can be written off against taxes for 25 years after they are incurred. This means that Statoil can also write off the Connemara loss against tax on future profits from Coribb field.
The corresponding limit in Norway is ten years.
Head of Information Bård Glad Pedersen at Statoil does not wish to comment directly on how the favourable tax terms have or have not influenced their decision to continue their operations in Ireland, but writes in an e-mail that:
“It is common that costs and losses can be offset against future income. The tax system in Ireland does not differ significantly from taxation in the other countries in this area. We make investment decisions on a commercial basis, and the framework conditions are included as a factor in these reviews.”
Shell, operator of Coribb field, has the following comment:
“All companies in Ireland can write off investment costs against profits, and the partners in Coribb field are no exception. Oil and gas companies must, however, pay 25 per cent tax instead of 12.5 like other companies in the country. Ireland also receives tax revenue from the hundreds of people who are employed in connection with the project,” Shell Ireland press officer Fiona McGuinness writes in an email.
Opinion: Shell, with its enthusiastic embrace of fracking, has a credibility problem
‘Shell faces up to climate change challenge” ran the headline in this paper last week. I wish it were true but the company has a credibility problem when it comes to the issue. It is betting everything on the presumption that we will keep burning the fossil fuels that it keeps pulling up out of the ground.
It is hard for Shell to be talking climate one minute and a new “golden age of gas” the next. It is a major player in the energy game and that cannot but affect how it sees our energy future.
It makes sense when Shell says that the capture and storage of carbon in power stations will be one of the solutions we will need, but relying on that crutch is not enough of a response to the scale of crisis we face. Its own New Len s Scenarios analysis recognises as much.
Shell’s scenario planning is always very professional, which makes its latest document all the more scary to read. No matter what way it slices and dices the future, it cannot seem to find a way to keep the global temperature increase beneath the 2-degree safety barrier that scientists say we should not pass.
My only hope is that Shell is missing out on what might be possible because as a fossil fuel company it cannot imagine what it might be like for us to live fossil-free. The company is sceptical that renewable power supplies can provide the energy we will need, but solar power has increased 100-fold in the last 10 years.
In Ireland, wind power alone could power our computers, run our cars and heat our homes. The price of solar and wind power is consistently falling and the finance gurus in Bloomberg New Energy Finance say that 70 per cent of all investment in power generation between now and 2030 is going to go into renewables. There is a war raging for who will be our preferred power supplier and I think Shell is backing the wrong horse. However, it is winning the PR battle hands down. The European council of energy ministers met in Dublin last month. They came out of with nothing but fear on their lips about the competitive advantage that the US now has as it fracks its way to energy independence. North Dakota is visible from space at night, as the oil companies flare off their excess natural gas. Shell is heading into the Arctic to drill and is chasing the shale gold rush right across the US and China.
It is a risky bet, not just for climate reasons but also for the known unknowns that surround the whole shale revolution. No one is certain what the long-term supply will be, whether there will be enough clean water to flush the gas out and what the real economic price of the gas is. Europe could try to beat the Americans at the shale game by drilling across the Continent or we could instead lead the alternative energy efficiency and renewables revolution.
The Shell scenario planning estimates that we will be able to bring the level of carbon emissions down to sustainable levels by the end of this century, but that might be a couple of decades too late. Is it beyond possibility that we could bring that change forward and create a stable economic system that will work as long as the sun still shines?
Eamon Ryan is leader of the Green Party and a former minister for energy
As he left the conference hall following his address, some delegates chanted: “no more cuts.”
One delegate, Bolatito Aderemi from the Dublin South West branch, started to sing: “All we are saying is enough is enough.
As he passed her Dr Reilly said she should “stick to her day job”.
A number of delegates objected to the Minister’s comments and said the union should seek an apology.
Dr Reilly later met with Ms Aderami privately and apologised.
He said he had made a quip as he left the hall. He said he had been informed that someone had taken offence. He said he had not intended to offend anyone.
Ms Aderemi, who is originally from Nigeria, said the Minister had shaken her hand, tried to give her a hug and said he was sorry and did not mean to embarrass her. She said she accepted his apology.
Dr Reilly had been greeted in silence as he arrived at the conference. However he received applause following an anouncement that nurses would hold senior leadership positions inthe proposed new hospital groups and in the Department of Health.
He said each of the proposed new hospital groups, to be announced formally next week, will have to have a director of nursing as a full executive on the management team.
“I will (also) establish a new chief nursing officer role within the Department of Health, that this role will be at assistant secretary level and a full member of the management advisory committee and will have executive authority to lead the nursing profession in Ireland and represent its perspective both to Government and internationally.”
Dr Reilly told delegates that pay savings of €150 million had to achieved in the HSE this yearin addition to the many reforms and efficiencies designed to improve servies and to live within its budget.
“Frankly, we are between a rock and a hard place.”
The Minister said that management and unions were meeting at the Labour Relations Comission to explore all the avenues open to try to reach a resolution to reducing the paybill.
“If we can find such anagreement it would be so much better than an imposed solution.
However he said the country was borrowing €1 billion per month and that this could not continue.
Illustration Mice Hell
The 19th-century term Gom’beenism, the practice of borrowing or lending at usury, is increasingly referenced in relation to Ireland’s domestic economic practices. Conor McCabe takes a look at the history of the Irish middleman and argues that they haven’t went away.
On Tuesday 3 January 1882 the nobility and landed gentry of Ireland met in Dublin to discuss the future of the island. Among those present was R.J. Mahony, a landowner from Kerry. He stood and said that the recently-passed land act would be the ruin not only of the landlords but of the small farmer as well. He explained that as soon as the landlord class was put out of the way, another would come along to take their place.‘The merchant, the trader, the usurer, the gombeen man,’ said Mahony, were ‘the future rulers of the land.’ Mr. Mahony called these the middlemen, and although he may have had his reasons for defending landlordism, his warnings were not without foundation. Forty years later the middleman were in the ascendancy and set about carving the newly-independent free state in their image – and we’ve been living with the consequences of that ever since.
Just who were these middlemen? In an article published in 1982 Michael D. Higgins wrote that the mainstream image of the period – and the one taught at secondary level – was one of poor small farmers fighting against perfidious, foreign landlords. However, what was glossed over in such a black and white analysis was that there was another struggle – a class struggle – going on, one that involved small farmers and the rancher/grazier families. These large rancher farmers fattened cattle for export, and occasionally they were the local shopkeepers, the arbiters of credit in the community, and the dispensers of loans. It gave them significant societal influence and power. Not all shopkeepers were graziers, of course, but neither one was the friend of the smallholder. The social relations which underpinned Irish rural society were not only framed by land, but by credit: those who needed it, and those who profited from it. And in the north and west of Ireland, it was the Irish entrepreneurial spirit of the middleman and his gombeen cousin that held sway over credit.
Today the middleman is concerned with the tax avoidance, commercial property and resource licences. In the nineteenth century it was the sub-letting of land. The link between the centuries is the practice of positioning oneself between foreign capital and the resources of the island. In an article for the London Times on 7 October 1845 the newspaper’s Irish correspondent explained the ‘middleman’ system to his English readers. Large tracts of land, including waste-land, were let by landlords to a class of businessman known as middlemen. ‘The middleman of 100 acres is no farmer as in England, who invests his capital and skill and industry in the land, and looks for a fair profit,’ write the journalist. The middleman’s ‘laziness makes him prefer doing nothing, his greediness and necessities make him resort to subletting at exorbitant rents to poor tenants, whilst he lives an idle, useless extortioner on the profit rent.’ The poor tenants, in turn, become themselves rent-seekers. ‘He lets out an acre out of his farm of six acres in conacre to some wretched labourer’ wrote the correspondent, ‘who for the potatoes grown on this land is perhaps compelled to work for the farmer the whole year.’
This is not to say that the middleman and gombeen man always got their own way. In the early 1850s the sin of usury and profiteering was punished in the North-West of Ireland by local secret societies such as the Ribbonmen or Molloy Maguires. In one particular case in 1852, recounted by an ex-policeman 50 years later in the Irish Times, three men ‘known as gombeen men purchased agricultural produce in the harvest time and sold out seed in the spring time to needy farmers… touching heavy interest on their three or six months’ bills.’ Their business acumen brought them to the attention of the Ribbonmen. The ex-policeman explained what happened next:
When a gombeen man infringed the rules of the Ribbonmen he was put on trial, and if found guilty, the sentence was carding. His house was visited by a select party of these legislators, generally between midnight and 2am, and he was taken out of bed naked, and placed on a chair in the room, and a pair of wool cards were used with vigour on his chest and back until the blood flowed freely. He was then solemnly cautioned to obey their orders in the future or worse would follow….. The parish priest denounced [the Ribbonmen] from the altar, and a message was conveyed to him to mind his own business.
By the end of the nineteenth century the middleman had expanded their business model into the cities. The decline of Dublin in the decades after the Act of Union and the retreat of the landed gentry from the city opened up the Georgian squares and grand houses to the speculator and rank-renter. In his evidence to the 1884-85 Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes, the chief medical officer of Dublin, Sir Charles Cameron, was scathing in his criticism of this urban class of middlemen. In the word of his biographer, Lydia Carroll, this class ‘rented houses from absentee landlords, to re-let at exorbitant rents to the poor.’ Cameron in his evidence stated that they ‘live by screwing the largest amount of rent they can out of the tenants. The disproportion between the rents which the actual owner of the house gets and the rents these house jobbers get out of the tenants is sometimes as one to three.’
In 1924, when the dust had settled on the Civil War, and with the industrial north ensconced in its own mini-state, the grazier, shop-keeper, rank-renter and gombeen man set about the task of carving the Irish State in their image. And what a sight it is to behold.
Since the 1920s the gombeen has become a shorthand for all the ills and evils of the Irish business class. The sins of the middleman, the rank rents and money lending, have concertinaed into a Pat Shortt bumbling character of cloth cap and Guinness stains proportions. And throughout the history of the state, although the type of business has changed, the underlying principles have not. The Irish entrepreneur is still a rentier-class, still acting as middleman between foreign capital and the resources of the State – but whereas before it was the Georgian houses that marked their lives, now it’s the IFSC and the law and accountancy firms that make billions by handling the tax-avoidance millions of others. The resource for sale today is the right of a nation-state to set its own tax laws, and to have those tax laws recognised internationally. That is a tradable commodity, one that provides a comfortable living for those engaged in it. The business suit has replaced the cloth cap, but the gombeenism and criminal self-interest remain.
OSSL seems to have been used as a “Mr Fixit” for SEPIL, allegedly facilitating the distribution of improper gifts to various parties, including the Garda, who rightly or wrongly, have been accused of acting as an offshoot of Shell security in policing protests against the project. It was also alleged that related invoices were falsified on Shell’s instructions.
Dear Mr Shatter TD
I am contacting you in your capacity as the Irish Government Minister responsible for Justice.
I operate an independent, entirely non commercial website – royaldutchshellplc.com – that monitors the activities of Royal Dutch Shell.
We have many contacts inside Shell and regularly publish Shell internal information supplied by whistleblowers, including employees working on the controversial Corrib gas project. We established that the Shell Corib emails supplied to us for publication were authentic.
In 2010, 2011, and 2012, I was in correspondence with various Garda officers, including on one occasion, Chief Superintendent M.B. Mangan, Personal Assistant to the Garda Commissioner and subsequently with Superintendent Patrick Diskin and others. The correspondence was in connection with alleged death threats made against the Corrib gas project whistleblowers. I did all I could to assist in the investigation.
More recently, in September of last year, I was contacted by a company called OSSL, which apparently for several years, supplied services to Shell E&P Ireland (SEPIR) in relation to the Corrib gas project.
OSSL seems to have been used as a “Mr Fixit” for SEPIL, allegedly facilitating the distribution of improper gifts to various parties, including the Garda, who rightly or wrongly, have been accused of acting as an offshoot of Shell security in policing protests against the project. It was also alleged that related invoices were falsified on Shell’s instructions.
We took the matter up directly with Shell at the outset giving them the opportunity to comment on, or deny the allegations, but received no response.
We did satisfy ourselves that a related leaked email to Shell dated 23 August 2012 was genuine and published it along with a related article.
Irish Supplier Accuses Shell of Bribery, Cover-up and Sinister Threats
The OSSL allegations have continued in subsequent months and in recent days we have published the following articles, which includes a purported invoice to SEPIL dated 24 August 2012 for over €35,000 worth of alcohol allegedly involving “upwards of 300 cops.”
Shell Accused of Corrupting Irish Police Force
OSSL, SHELL AND ALLEGED CORRUPTION
Following the publication of the most recent articles, I received on 30 March an email from a long-standing contact in Ireland. This person has far more knowledge and experience than me in relation to SEPIL and the Garda. The email contained this rather chilling paragraph.
“I personally don’t know any of the OSSL people (I knew Desmond Kane, the owner of the business name by sight but that was all) but I wonder if they are fully aware of the potentially deadly danger they face in persisting with this and, to that effect, have they adequate protection in place as regards spreading copies of their evidence to different places and ensuring that the original documentation is lodged in a VERY safe location or locations.”
I have passed this concern on to OSSL and have made it clear that it comes from a source sympathetic to the plight of OSSL.
Being a small company carrying out the instructions of Shell, OSSL must have thought what they were being asked to do by Shell was perfectly legal, bearing in mind that Shell has an in-house army of several hundred lawyers to ensure Shell operates strictly within the law. OSSL probably thought that they could safely rely on Shell.
It is only recently that, according to OSSL, Shell’s accountants in Dublin have notified them that the activities undertaken for Shell may have been criminal.
If authentic, the content of the invoice dated 24 August 2012 raises a number of issues.
1. Was the alcohol listed therein distributed as corrupt gifts to the Garda?
2. Are there cross-border smuggling and VAT issues involved?
3. Did Shell take advantage of the naivety of a small company?
Since the corruption allegations have been on the public record for several months, I am astonished that the Irish authorities apparently have not yet become involved in establishing whether there is an enormous corruption scandal surrounding the Corrib gas project, or alternatively, that a small company, for some unknown reason, is making wild unfounded allegations, possibly supported by fake documentation.
I have copied this email to Lorna Siggins at The Irish Times so that she is aware of this matter.
As a matter of courtesy, I have also sent a copy to Michiel Brandjes, Company Secretary & General Counsel Corporate, Royal Dutch Shell Plc.
Tagged: Corrib Gas Project · Corruption · Gas · John Donovan · Royal Dutch Shell Plc
It is generally considered a truism these days to state that from the foundation of the Republic, the Catholic Church has had a large part to play in the running of the country. Legislation was passed or defeated on the whims of Catholic interests, social norms and conventions were passed down from the pulpit to the worshippers in the pews, and most shamefully, thousands of women and children were forced into what was essentially slave labour in the country’s Industrial Schools and Magdalene Laundries. However, the attitude of many towards the Church has changed dramatically over the last twenty or so years, no doubt caused by the revelations of what went on in the Industrial Schools, Magdalene Laundries, along with the revelations of a vast conspiracy to cover up allegations of physical and sexual abuse of children being carried out by members of the clergy. The Church as an institution, for all its posturing statements over the last number of years, will have to do something drastic if it is to recover from the various scandals that have hit it and continue to do so. One can clearly chart its decline in some of the latest figures regarding religious worship in Ireland.
In the 2011 census, a total of 3,861,335 people, 81.4 per cent of the population, declared themselves as Catholic, a 4.9 per cent increase since the 2006 census, when 3,681,446 people identified themselves as such. Yet, regarding this increase, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) stated, “that while the number of Catholics overall increased by 179,889, or 4.9 per cent, since 2006 much of this increase came from the non-Irish (mostly European) national community.” On the other hand, those identifying as having no religion increased by 45 per cent, up from 186,318 in 2006, to 269,811 in 2011. When broken down further in a separate CSO document, 72,914 did not state their religion, or lack of, with another 3,905 and 3,521 people stating Atheist and Agnostic respectively as their religion. As anyone remotely familiar with the religious demographics of Ireland will tell you though, the number of “true Catholics” is likely to be far smaller than the 81.4 per cent noted in the 2011 census. This can be seen in a range of areas.
For example, in 2012, Red C published the results of a poll they carried out in which they asked the public whether or not “Same sex marriage should be allowed in the Constitution”. A total of 73 per cent of respondents were in favour of an amendment to the constitution that would allow same sex marriage, which is up from 56 per cent in 2008. Regarding sex before marriage, according to the Irish Times, 6 per cent of those asked in 2004/2005 said that sex before marriage was always wrong compared to 71 per cent in 1973/1974. In another survey commissioned, also in 2012, by the Association of Catholic Priests, it was found that 35 per cent of Irish people attend Mass “at least once per week”, 36 per cent attend “a few times per year”, with 27 per cent attending Mass “less often”. In contrast, 85 per cent of people in 1980 stated that they attended Mass at least once per week. On the issue of clergy, 87 per cent stated that priests should be allowed to get married, 77 per cent stated that women should be allowed to become priests, and 72 per cent stated that “mature married men should be allowed to be ordained”. Everything mentioned here is at odds with basic Church teachings that anyone who has been raised Catholic would be well aware of.
This is why the number of “true Catholics” in the country is likely to be far lower than the 81.4 per cent who identify as Catholic. Peer pressure, family tradition, and social habit can explain why people identify as Catholic when their ideals are completely at odds with Church teachings. Despite the somewhat liberal nature, at least on the surface, of the majority of Irish society, there still exists a pressure to conform to some basic Church teachings which are now considered more tradition than anything else; christenings, confirmations, and church weddings. The Church as an institution however, is well and truly on the path of decline in Ireland if something drastic does not change in the coming years. According to a poll published in August of 2012 by WIN-Gallup International, Ireland is now rated as one of the least religious countries in the world, coming only second to Vietnam. Added to this is the very real fear that the rate of new priests being ordained in the country will not be enough to keep the Church alive, with only six being ordained in 2011.
Despite all of this, the Church and religion in general is going to remain a force in Irish politics and society for some time to come. The current struggle to take back patronage of the primary school system in Ireland from the Church demonstrates the power and obstinacy they still hold when their interests are threatened. Also, note the reaction of the various orders to the release of the McAleese Report; complete disregard and a callous indifference. In an interview that was broadcast on March 8th on RTÉ Radio 1, two nuns defended their role in the running of the Magdalene Laundries. When one of them was asked if they should apologise for the laundries she simply responded, “Apologise for what? Apologise for providing a service?” Answers like this should no longer surprise us, and neither should the anger that we feel at their utterance.
Even though the Church in Ireland is far weaker now than it was decades ago, it still holds sway. We must always remember that it has the power it has now, because of the power it had in the past.
Democracy or just simply Demopsefia?
A new nationwide opinion poll in Ireland has shown that people are becoming more and more disillusioned with the political process leading one to wonder if democracy (people rule) has simply become demopsefia (people vote). This type of disillusionment is becoming widespread across Europe in general. While no one is naive enough to believe all the promises of politicians, in recent years the desires of the electorate seem to be ever more blatantly subsumed to the financial interests/problems of recent governments.
While in the past clientelism and patronage produced some semblance of benefit to the voters, the deepening financial crisis and unemployment is breaking down the old ways of thinking and behaving. Voters are becoming just that, voters. And as such, are starting to wonder what is the point of voting at all? Thus we have an increase in the third main aspect of the current crisis, emigration. According to Aideen Sheehan emigration is ‘at famine levels’ as 200 leave the country every day: ‘Some 87,000 people emigrated from Ireland in the year to April 2012, three times as many as the annual exodus during the boom years.’ Another source states that: ‘More than half of those who left the country in the 12 months up to April  were Irish and almost 36,000 were under the age of 25, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) said.’
We have come a long way from the desires of the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, whereby, as the former President of Ireland Mary Robinson writes:
‘The motto of The Irish Citizen newspaper, published by the Irish Women’s Franchise League from 1912 to 1920, encapsulates not only the ideals of the campaign for female suffrage in Ireland but the longing of women the world over to be equal and active citizens in their societies: “For men and women equally the rights of citizenship; from men and women equally the duties of citizenship.”’
The sleight-of-hand conversion of the citizen into consumer only works insofar as the consumer has the wherewithal to consume. Another recent survey revealed that ‘Irish consumer sentiment plunged five percentage points in February  as the effects of January sales faded and a deal to restructure a €30 billion government debt failed to boost confidence.’
Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that consumer confidence will improve with the range of new taxes being prepared by the government at the moment. The downward spiral caused by taking more and more money out of the economy to pay government debts is reflected in the comment by KBC Bank economist Austin Hughes who remarked that: ‘The Irish consumer is seeing an improvement in ‘macro’ conditions across the economy but their personal finances remain under pressure.’
Yet while consumers become disillusioned and young people vote with their feet, the belief that the democratic system is not simply about voting on who will win/lose their well-paid jobs in the government is alive and well in the growing immigrant community in Ireland. At the Irish Citizenship Ceremony held in Dublin last year almost 4,000 people from 115 countries became Ireland’s newest citizens. According to Charlie Taylor in the Irish Times:
‘Attorney General Máire Whelan SC and retired justice Bryan McMahon presided over four ceremonies at which 3,800 individuals were sworn as Irish citizens, having made a declaration of loyalty to the nation and fidelity to the State as well as undertaking to faithfully observe the laws of the State and respect its democratic values.’
The enthusiasm of Ireland’s newest citizens was evident. ‘I am very excited today because I have been here for so long working hard to get my citizenship’ said Maria Elizabeth Mallo (50) from the Philippines who has lived in Roscommon for the past 10 years.
Is it possible that this enthusiasm for citizenship ignited by a newly globalised population will push the superficial concept of consumer (not to mention its manipulability) over the edge and bring about a return to a national ideology of rights and duties of citizenship? We are not beholden to the state for whatever we have or consume – we pay taxes and uphold the laws that keep the state in existence. To narrow the concept of citizen to the concept of consumer leaves out elites in society who have absolutely no loyalty to any state yet gain all the benefits. By re-defining ourselves as citizens again and re-imagining what kind of society we want to live in, surely we can put our votes to better use?
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is a prominent Irish artist who has exhibited widely around Ireland. His work consists of paintings based on cityscapes of Dublin, Irish history and geopolitical themes (http://gaelart.net/). His blog of critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country at http://gaelart.blogspot.ie/.
Patriarchy, literally the rule by the fathers, is a social system in which the male is the primary authority figure. Daddy calls the shots in political leadership, moral authority, the control of property, and over women and children. Sound familiar?
If you haven’t noticed, patriarchy is not what it once was. In the Irish context the experience of patriarchy has played out for centuries in the empires that ruled us, the church that molded us and in the state that (most often) sent us to war or sent us packing.
Good little patriots that we were, we did what we were told too, didn’t we? We were well trained.
In life, apparently, you get one of two choices — to live in a historical age that is restrictive and repressive, or one collapsing under the weight of its own hubris. There’s no doubt about which we’re living in now, is there?
The only question is when will the principle players, the ones who had it so good for so long, quit the stage to make way for the sweeping change that is increasingly inevitable? I think it’s become clear that it’s going to take more than a little cast change to fix what’s ailing in patriarchy now.
We are in a new and uncharted situation, after all. Daddy’s not looking like the imposing authority figure he once was.
Thanks to two decades of unprecedented crisis where the deep rot in the Irish system is now in daily public view, ordinary Irish people suddenly possess something novel — a voice in their own affairs.
So what are those voices saying? In regard to the church those ordinary Irish people are saying we were abused or brutalized by religious orders who depended upon our silence. They’re saying a compliant state choose to look the other way.
They’re saying for decades Ireland had a golden circle that simply froze out the rabble to protect their own good fortune.
They’re saying what happened to me and to thousands like me was wrong.
They’re saying they want an apology, but more than that they’re saying they don’t want thus to happen to anyone else any more.
They’re not being listened to, of course. In life, where you stand determines so much of what you’re willing to see. Nothing puts the blinders on like an inchoate threat to your purse strings.
That’s why we need artists. Artists live beyond the margin of things, they stand outside the daily struggles, that can tell us what they see from their unique perspective. So far the news isn’t good.
For decades Ireland’s most distinguishing characteristic was repression. That was the signature element of our powerlessness. Daddy (the state, the church) called the shots.
But remarkably, in a moment that underlines just how far we have moved away from the repressive
certainties of even a decade ago, it was the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny who admitted as much last week.
“We lived with the damaging idea that what was desirable and acceptable in the eyes of the church and the state was the same and interchangeable,” Kenny told the nation last week.
“This moral subservience gave us… the compliant, obedient and lucky ‘us’ and banished the more problematic, spirited or unlucky ‘them.’”
Shocking things could happen to you in Ireland if you were one of “them.” I know this with certainty, because I was one. Figuratively and literally.
That’s what some people used to call me when I lived in Ireland. It was a badge of shame. It was the equivalent of a passport too.
Once you were called it your fate was already being parceled out. You were being stamped for rejection or export or worse.
The jig’s well and truly up now though, isn’t it? Oh, the organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue and the elder statesmen of the Republican Party and the cardinals on their way to the concave can still pretend they haven’t received the memo, but we’re in a new moment.
They know it. The whole world knows it.
The lesson of the last decade, where patriarchal hubris led us to war on false pretenses, where it sought to divide natural allies to protect itself, where it tried to cover up its own sins whilst loudly condemning others, has not been lost on us. Daddy can take a number now like the rest of us had to.
Politics is dead in the Irish Republic. The Irish parliament, the Dail, is now little more than a rubber stamp for the Troika, the generic name for the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Union, the three powers to which the country is in hock.
Things are bad. Ireland’s debt to GDP ratio is set to reach 122 percent in 2013, above the 120 percent threshold the IMF considers unsustainable. The total debt of the country, according to an Irish Times report, is €192 billion, four times what it was in 2007, with a projected need to borrow a further €34 billion before 2015.
The fact is that Ireland is technically cash-flow insolvent. The country simply doesn’t have the revenue to fund the day to day running of the state. And the projections are for continued borrowing for years to come, with a hope – it can be little more than a hope –that somehow, miraculously, the economy will return to growth.
But with little or no sign of that desperately needed economic growth, emigration of graduates and the unemployed is about the only welfare relief the country has – and at a terrible economic and demographic cost to the future of the state.
Over the past year, 87,000 people left Ireland for countries far afield such as Australia, Canada, and the UK, countries that are now reaping the benefits of Ireland’s expensive-to-educate graduates and tradesmen.
Yet fascinatingly, as those 87,000 people leave the country to find work abroad, the number of immigrants entering the country was steady at 52,700, with 12,400 of these from non-EU countries.
This glaring anomaly of educated and skilled people leaving because of unemployment, being replaced by typically low-skilled immigrants, is not mentioned by the political class. It is mentioned on the streets of Dublin, often in great anger, but no politician will touch it. Political correctness along with the Troika now rule the Irish state.
So even in the midst of financial Armageddon, the numbers entering the country continue at Celtic Tiger levels. Ireland’s welfare entitlements are still very generous, and on any common-sense view of human nature would attract takers. And that seems to be what’s happening.
In north Dublin, for example, over half the applicants for social housing are from immigrants, with over 43 percent of the total being lone parents. While waiting to be housed, all social housing applicants receive rent allowance, with the result that over half of all residential rents in the country are now paid for by the state, or more accurately by the few remaining tax payers.
This socialist policy of state housing support is a lucrative business. One Dublin landlord received €620,000 last year in rent subsidies. On the back of socialist welfare policies, landlords are building wealthy property portfolios – all paid for by the Irish tax payer.
One local councillor from north Dublin broke the rigidly enforced political correctness by talking about ‘welfare tourism’, but quickly back-pedalled and qualified his remark by repeating the well established liberal mantra of how Ireland ‘needs immigrants.’
So what, if anything, is the Irish government doing about this unsustainable mess, apart from drawing lucrative salaries and gold-plated pensions? The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny is paid more than David Cameron.
Economically the Troika is in charge, and the recent austerity budget – which imposed a swingeing property tax on householders, many of whom are in negative equity – was designed largely to facilitate repaying the country’s debt. The government doesn’t have much option here. It simply has to do what it is told by the Brussels apparatchiks.
The Irish political class, in effect, are reduced to being managers working for the Troika, and there’s virtually no serious political debate in the country about any alternative, such as leaving the euro and devaluing. All political parties, both left and right, give absolute and unconditional support to the euro project.
As Nigel Farage said on Irish radio a few months ago, Irish politicians are “the good boys of Europe. Brussels says jump and the Irish say how high.”
Such Brussels worship is unique in the EU. In the UK for example, as in France and other EU states, there is some degree of rational opposition to the EU and to the euro single currency, and these issues often split along left and right lines. There’s no such split in the Irish body politic.
But there is one, highly contentious issue where the Irish political class has dug in and taken a stand – Irish corporation tax rate.
Ireland has one of the lowest corporation tax rates in the EU, at 12.5 percent. This makes the Irish Republic a major corporate tax haven, competing with places such as the Cayman Islands. Many large corporations, including Mit Romney’s Bain Capital Private Equity, use Ireland as a corporate base for tax purposes.
There is unanimous support for this beggar-thy-neighbour policy right across the Irish political spectrum – and for good reason. Thanks to its much resented tax haven status, Ireland pulls in large tax revenues that account for an Irish share of global profits hugely disproportionate to the size of the economy.
But the country risks becoming a pariah state over the issue. Many countries in the EU, particularly the French, are furious at Ireland’s tax haven status. They claim companies such as Google use transfer pricing – routing profits from high tax to low tax jurisdictions – that benefits Ireland and takes from the French exchequer.
With such fierce opposition, it’s difficult to see how the Irish can, in the long run, hold out against French demands for change. So even on the issue of setting its own corporation tax rate, it looks like the Irish political class will eventually have to concede to the power of Brussels. When that happens, along with closer political union, many argue there will be little need for an independent Irish parliament.
Vincent Cooper is a freelance writer
Jobs not Debt, 9th Febr
ens of thousands of people have marched through cities in Ireland in a massive show of anger against severe austerity measures and high costs of living.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions,which organized the rallies, claimed more than 100,000 people attended, with some 60,000 marching in Dublin. Demonstrators also protested in Cork, Galway, Limerick, Sligo and Waterford.
Tough cuts were implemented to please Ireland’s creditors in the wake of the country’s banking crisis. It has been relying on a joint EU-IMF loan since 2010.
The “Lift the Burden” march took place despite the Irish government’s recent bank debt deal with the European Central Bank. It saw 28 billion euro worth of costly promissory notes swapped for long-term sovereign bonds.
The union’s General Secretary David Begg vowed that the campaign against the debt burden will carry on until the European authorities fully honor the agreement reached last July to separate bank debt from sovereign debt, The Irish Times reported.
“It would be fatal for people to believe this issue is now resolved and we can all move on,” David Begg said. “At the onset of the crisis Ireland had one of the lowest debt to GDP ratios in Europe. The difference between then and now is due entirely to Ireland socializing bank debt at the behest of the ECB, to save the European banking system.”
I’ve no confidence at all in the deal, it won’t make any difference to ordinary people,” Alfie Murray who marched in Dublin with his 8-year-old grandson, told Reuters. “It’s the next generation that’ll shoulder the cost,” he said.
Financial advisor Marco Pietropoli explained to RT that the Irish per capita have ended up with a far bigger bill than the most countries who had a bailout. “Therefore they are suffering a great deal more.”
Pietropoli says that Ireland’s situation is one of the most difficult in the EU and that Dublin’s holding of the bloc’s presidency isn’t likely to make things any better.
“I don’t think the Irish with the presidency are necessarily going to be able to exert much pressure or much influence to actually change the situation in Europe, because the power remains with the Germans.”
Here is a list of of the items I noted in the month of Jan 2013.
Ask yourself how ethical or trustworthy is business today.
(1)The Irish Times – Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Steel plant pollution and bribery scandal engulfs Italians
The basic accusation levelled at the Riva family is that, over a 17-year period, pollution from its Taranto plant has poisoned not only Ilva workers and local people but also the entire eco-system of the surrounding region. The company is also accused of bribing local officials
Guardian.co.uk, Sunday 6 January 2013 14.09 GMT
France shaken by fresh scandal over weight-loss drug linked to deaths
Drug company boss faces manslaughter investigation as victims complain of delays in compensation
Telegraph Mon 7th Jan
Rolls in China bribery allegations
Aerospace engine maker Rolls Royce is facing allegations it bribed a Chinese airline executive to secure deals worth a total of $2bn (£1.24bn), according to reports.
Telegraph 7th jan
Rothschild demands action from Bumi director
Financier Nat Rothschild has told Bumi’s senior independent director Sir Julian Horn-Smith he must take action over the alleged financial misdemeanours at the coal miner or consider quitting the board.
(5) Telegraph 9th Jan
UBS fires eighteen over Libor-rigging scandal
Just eighteen UBS staff were sacked over the Libor-rigging scandal that saw the bank hand over $1.5bn (£940m) to regulators, the second-largest fine ever paid by a bank.
(6) Telegraph 9th of Jan
Foxconn reviews China deals as it probes bribe claims
Apple’s technology provider Foxconn has revealed it could pull acquisitions in China over allegations its managers in the country solicited bribes from local suppliers.
As well as suffering from a string of suicides Foxconn was also exposed last year as employing children as young as 14 on its assembly lines.
Wednesday 09 January 2013 Daily Telegraph
Former HBOS managers charged in £35m fraud investigation
Two former senior managers at HBOS were among eight people charged on Tuesday night in connection with an alleged £35m fraud.
(8) The Telegraph 9th Jan
US Interior Department launches probe into Shell’s Arctic oil drilling
The US Interior Department has launched a “high-level” review of Shell’s mishap-hit 2012 Arctic drilling campaign, throwing the company’s plans to explore for oil in the region further into doubt.
Daily Mail-20 th Jan
Exposed: The regime of fear inside Barclay s – and how the boss lied and shredded the evidence
British executive at £184bn broking arm hid damning report on bullying
Intimidated staff forced to flout rules in pursuit of ‘revenue at all costs’
Huge blow to Barclay’s reputation as new CEO struggles to relaunch bank
(10) The Independent
The Swiss food giant Nestlé was ordered to pay SFr 27,000 (£18,700) compensation after being found liable in a civil case over the secret infiltration of an activist group that had campaigned against it.
A court ruled last week in favour of anti-globalisation group Attac, following revelations that Nestlé had hired the Swiss security company Securitas AG to infiltrate its meetings.
A spokesman for Nestlé noted the judge’s decision “with disappointment” and reiterated “that incitement to infiltration is against Nestlé’s corporate business principles”.
Tomorrow: Can you Trust big business? Walmart And Company Bribing Their Way Through Latin America –