Of course there is racism in Ireland

Like many articles on TheJournal.ie, the real reading is not in the actual text, rather below in the comments section.

Take this one titled “‘People throw bananas at you or tell you to go back to your country just for asking to see a ticket’“.  The inspiration for the article is a campaign run by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Transport for Ireland and Dublin City Council to promote “a message of zero tolerance” towards racism in Ireland.

Of course this debate is particularly timely what with President #DoubleDownDonald having one of his classic press conference meltdowns where he tried to suggest that not all those who protested the statue in Charlottesville were neo-Nazis.  By the way, in that tirade, the president alluded to something he called the “alt-left” which proved the very point I made a couple of days ago about false equivalency.

But returning to Ireland, the Journal article cites numerous experiences of racism by public transport drivers of various origins.  It’s not all violent, most of it isn’t.  But particularly in an area like this, ie racial hatred, the violence is the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and to understand where it comes from you first must acknowledge what lies beneath the water, and there are several examples in the comments section of this piece, much as we’d expect.

The first category, and the easiest to dismiss, is captured by this one…

Yawn!! The Journal is really laying it on today. Its endless. Are they being cynical and using it all for clickbait? Can you not see it just a quango justifying it’s continued existance (and big saleries) by portraying a subjective and selective number of allegations. Whether they are true or not doesn’t really matter as it is about the above. The Journal also love these type of press releases as they get a lot of comments.

Spelling atrocities aside, this is classic conspiracy theory nonsense…much easier to blame those calling out the racism than to acknowledge it.

Next we have the soft denier.

Sadly, we have racists in Ireland but I like to think that the racists are a minority. Of course, one would have to be of a different race to know the reality in everyday life. The actual lived experience is the most revealing.

Did I miss something?  Has anyone suggested that racists were in the majority?  But at least this person appreciates that they haven’t experienced this kind of racism personally, unlike this final genius of a commenter, a “hard” denier if you will…

The poor foreign taxi men will be on next telling us all how hard their life is and what a bunch of racists us Irish are… Give me strength… If your gonna work dealing with the public especially on crammed public transport your gonna have to listen to a bit of crap every now and again whether your black, white, orange, Irish, Polish, Russian or whatever.. That’s the nature of human interaction, mostly good but sometimes bad, that’s never gonna change no matter how many posters you put up so either accept that your in a foreign land and a minority of people aren’t going to like you, either get used to that fact or get a job in an office…

There is racism all over the world.  But it’s not a bloody competition.  We can’t justify what happens on our own shores because of what happens elsewhere.  We stand up and call it what it is whenever we see it.  And like I said earlier, it’s not just the violent incidents we need to call out.

Ever been on a bus when a driver was verbally abused?  Or in a shop when it was an employee?  Or in a taxi when an Irish driver was telling you stories about scary activities by black drivers?  Or at a family gathering when an elder relative used the ‘n word’?  I have.  And I’m ashamed to say that too often I failed to speak out.  I’m actually part of the problem, I freely admit.

Of course I’m not saying we should put ourselves in any danger when out and about but the simple fact is that if we do nothing at all, it will continue.

But one thing we can definitely do is accept that it’s happening, and that will cost us nothing.  JLP

#IANWAE

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Trump’s #Charlottesville reaction highlights the need to stop using ‘left’ and ‘right’ to describe political spectrum

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.”

Before I start on the theme of this article, have you ever seen a US president more obsessed with his predecessor?  It has gotten to a stage where he just throws his name into his statements without any real context.

Anyway…you have no doubt read volumes on what happened in Charlottesville and it is not my wish to delve too much further into the horrific events, at least not here.

What I want to point out is something I feel is crucial for the progressive platform to gain more followers, and it is a very simple one.

Rumour has it that human civilisation once believed premises like the earth being the centre of the universe, or at other times that it was a flat plain as opposed to a spherical planet.  Maybe such misconceptions don’t effect people’s everyday life, but then again it’s hard to have a philosophical grasp on existence when you don’t even have the fundamentals correct.

So what I’d like to challenge is the way we label political ideologies as ‘left’ and ‘right’, because it suggests some kind of balance between the two.  On the most basic level, what we call the left represents a society that is fair to everyone while the right does not.

But to properly understand where the conflict comes from you first must appreciate how it started.  Whether you believe in evolution or creation, there must have existed a time when the human race had no elitism.  Then as it became clear that certain resources were more valuable than others, some people took control of them and were selective about those with whom they were shared.

Over time those who had control over the resources got better and better at holding on to that power.  Countries with tyrannical leaders simply run roughshod over their opposition, while those which claim to be democracies use a variety of tools to make sure elections go the way of the ruling classes.

Donald Trump became president on the back of one of these tools, ie supporting a specific group of voters he felt could help get him elected; in this case middle to lower class white men who felt that the civil rights movement had somehow discriminated against them.

Because this movement provided votes for the Republican party, it is considered to be on the ‘right’.  And because the obvious racist and fascist leanings of this movement, it has become fashionable to label them as ‘alt-right’.  Even with this distinction though, the fact that it is called any kind of ‘right’ seems to lend it equal status to whatever is called the ‘left’.

As the mainstream media fully supports the left-right paradigm, the President can claim, however wrongly, that he is being fair to ‘all sides’.

What we who have been shoved on the ‘left’ of this pseudo-spectrum must do is renounce it.  A society that purports to be fair to all citizens is not half the argument.  It is the only one.   Of course we won’t all agree on how it is to be achieved, but given we believe in fairness, chances are the discussions are going to be devoid of such words as ‘fire and fury’.

Anyone who feels they have to ‘tone down’ their views to somehow ‘be fair’ and ‘not exclude the conservative opinion’ is basically validating the very argument that conservatives want.

The white men who marched on Charlottesville are bigots.  Nothing they feel was ‘taken from them’ was really theirs in the first place.  To offer them any sense of legitimacy is not being fair, it’s not being balanced.  It is turning back the clock on American society to a time when the ruling classes needed only the crudest, most basic tools to hold on to power, as opposed to the more intricate ones they use today.

Progressives need to stop allowing themselves to be defined by a scale that doesn’t really exist.

#IANWAE

 

 

Corporate Dems vow to do things ‘better’ – let’s hope that includes listening

Whatever you might think about Donald Trump and his administration, their tenure in the White House, a shade over six months old now, has been a rollercoaster ride with something new to report each and every passing day.

The biggest drawback to this obsession with the latest Washington shenanigans is, of course, the fact that although Trump & co might provide us with easy one-liners and online memes, there is also a very serious side to the story in that we are talking about the government of the most powerful nation in the world.

It’s all very well to ridicule the man in power right now – but it’s pointless unless you can suggest a reasonable alternative.

That alternative is the broad tent that is the Democratic Party, and the 2016 campaign in particular has divided it into two distinct factions….the “corporate wing”, essentially those in the most senior positions in Washington right now, and the “progressive wing”, ie those who follow the social equity platform of the likes of Bernie Sanders.

Here is a recent quote from the Washington Post to ponder…see if you can guess which side of the Democratic tent it came from…

“When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things — Comey, Russia — you blame yourself. So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

Obviously I want you to think that’s a Progressive, when in actual fact it’s one of the most senior corporate Democrats, Minority leader of the Senate Chuck Schumer.

Ever since the election, Schumer and his counterpart in the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi have been as much under attack  from their left as from their right, probably more so.  And most of it was deserved.

But there has to be a point at which even progressives realise that the Schumers and Pelosis still represent the front line of the resistance to the current terrifying incarnation of the Republican Party, and once and a while they need to be given a bit of slack, especially when they are making noises that sound like they come straight out of the Bernie Sanders playbook.

I’m not one to give the Democrat leadership too much praise – the best thing that be said about the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is that at least their corporate policies aren’t as bad as their opposition.  What I would rather do is change the narrative – it’s not about how much or little we appease the wishes of the “one percent”, rather it’s about formulating policies that are fair to everyone whether it benefits the rich or not.

To promote this mindset I fully understand the need to hold big-donor politicians to account no matter what their stripes.  But what do we do when they start using slogans that reflect our agenda?

“A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future”

Of course it’s natural to be sceptical when they start to look as though they’re drinking the Bernie KoolAid.  But care must be taken to ensure healthy scepticism doesn’t morph into petulant rejection.

For now anyway, I am willing to give the likes of Schumer a chance.  After all, it can’t have been easy to keep 48 Democratic senators united against Trumpcare – you can be sure one or two of the “Blue Dogs” (more right-leaning Democrats) were courted by the GOP and none have budged.

If the Democrats really want to adopt progressive values to their platform – remember they did at their convention last year only many feared it was empty promises on paper – they need to be supported, voted for, and put under pressure when there are any signs of them failing to deliver.

After all, that’sq what being a ‘Democrat’, with a large or small d, is meant to entail.  JLP

#IANWAE

It’s not about Jobstown, Paul Murphy nor Joan Burton. It’s about what side you’re on.

The date was September 17, 2016.  I got the Luas with my wife and our two young children to Heuston Station, which was one of the meeting places for the latest Right2Water march.  We all set off towards the centre of town, and there were thousands gathered in just our section and the various groups from around the city were to converge at St Stephens Green.  

As we walked along the quays, I’d say it was probably around Ormond Quay, a man walked up to my wife as she pushed the buggy carrying our then 17-month old daughter and stuck a microphone in her face.  Behind him was a cameraman with his device pointing at her.

“So why are you marching today?”

“I don’t want to talk.”

“But I thought you cared about water changes?  Why are you marching then if you don’t want to talk about it?”

To be clear, I am paraphrasing the man, but that is definitely the gist of the exchange.

Needless say I wanted to throw him into the Liffey.  On a more sensible level, I wanted to give him a piece of my mind.  My wife does not feel comfortable in those situations.  And why should she.  All she wanted to do to lend her support for something she believed in was march, and it is as much her right not to talk as it is to talk.

How dare you confront a peaceful protester in this manner?  Would you not at least ask permission for the interview first?  Identify yourself and the broadcaster or publication for whom you are reporting first?  This is what I wanted to say to the man.  But I knew it wouldn’t come out that way so I took her hand and led her away from him.

I don’t want to give the impression that I go to these marches all the time.  That’s not because I’d be ashamed if I did, in fact it’s more to the contrary…I’m ashamed that I had somehow managed to be elsewhere each and every time such activism was going on, no matter how much I believed in a particular cause.  My “excuse” for the past year or so has been that I have been more interested in the US Presidential campaign plus my online time has been taken up by running a monetised sports blog.

None of that really matters, though.  You either show up for events like this or you don’t.  And on this day I honestly thought showing up was enough.  I should have been more prepared for a moment like this one.  I should have known to confront this asshole with a clear head and using accurate language to give him a proper soundbite and I should have also known to use my phone to record my own words as well.

Anyway, here’s my point that relates that incident above to this article.  

Do you believe my recollection of what happened?  Or do you think I’m exaggerating the reporter’s aggressiveness and/or lack of professionalism for the sake of the cause I was marching for?  Your honest answer to that question is very important when it comes to contemporary Irish politics.

Something else happened to me on the day of that protest.  As we waited at Heuston Station for the march to start, I was handed a placard.  I looked at it. It read “Jobstown Not Guilty”.  I handed it back to the man.

The reason I wouldn’t take it was not that I was opposed to the Jobstown cause, rather that on this particular day, while I did know about the incident in question involving then-Tánaiste Joan Burton, I was unaware of the specifics of the pending legal case, and also the organisation to back the defendants.  

Basically I didn’t want to be going around with my children holding a placard for a cause I knew little about.  And truth be told, in the short amount of time between receiving the placard and handing it back, I didn’t have time to check whether or not it was somehow connected to Sinn Féin, which was my greatest fear.

Since then of course, I have gotten to know more and more about the #JobstownNotGuilty cause.  Again because of other distractions, I never managed to get too involved in the activism, but you can be sure I was delighted when the defendants were found not guilty at the end of June.

Was the delight down to my thoughts on the actual events which transpired on that fateful day in Jobstown in November 2014?  Of course not.  I wasn’t there.  My delight stems from the fact that this was way, way more than a court case.  This was actually the coal face of modern Irish society.  People’s approach to the topic could not illustrate more where they stand with regard to the “haves vs have-nots” nature of public opinion these days.

And am I a fan of Paul Murphy?  I can’t answer.  I don’t know the guy personally.  But I do know that he was elected by the people of Dublin South-West on a ticket which couldn’t more clearly define his mandate if it tried : “Anti Austerity Alliance”.

I have certainly read multiple attempts to smear him though.   Like this op-ed by Philip Ryan in the Irish Independent over the weekend.

Paul Murphy really fancies himself as Ireland’s modern day Nelson Mandela with a megaphone

Here’s a thought…instead of slagging the man off for his megaphone, why not ask yourself why he feels the need to use it?  Or better still…give him the megaphone YOU’RE using.  Let HIM write a piece in the Indo and let your readers form their own opinion?  

No – it’s much easier to hide behind your column and slag the man off along with half-truths and tenuous associations.

And while we’re on that subject…a few points.  The pro-establishment media are very concerned with the fact that a water balloon was thrown.  So much so, they make it sound like it was a Molotov cocktail.  If that’s the extent of the violence that took place, then that’s surely enough to question the general narrative for starters.

They are also very concerned with the fact that Joan Burton is a woman.  Why?  She was the Tánaiste at the time.  It shouldn’t matter a jot what gender she is.  There was nowhere near this level of hysteria when President Higgins had a similar in-car experience a couple of months later, although the mainstream coverage was still very much anti-protester.

And as for “kidnapping”, well that one’s easy.  The court has decided it wasn’t.  Therefore it wasn’t.

But we had the ultimate side-taking just recently in the Dáil by our new Taoiseach.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fnewstalkfm%2Fvideos%2F10156467130447907%2F&show_text=1&width=560

Asked by Deputy Murphy if there would be a public inquiry into false statements made by gardaí throughout the course of the trial, Varadkar replied thus…

Deputy, you had a fair trial…

…so we’d best leave it at that.”  Had that been the Taoiseach’s point, even it it meant brushing Murphy off on the Garda thing, I would have understood to an extent.   Remember…“Taoiseach” is supposed to mean “leader”, and one every bit as much of the people who voted for Murphy as those who voted for Fine Gael.

But he couldn’t resist going on…

…you were acquitted, but that doesn’t mean that your behaviour was right.  And it may well be the case that you weren’t engaged in kidnapping, but it was thuggery.

…and his good buddies at BlueshirtFM, aka Newstalk, were on hand to provide plenty of “huzzah!” for his clearly biased opinion.  No fear of asking a Solidarity representative on to provide some kind of balance.

The Jobstown trial and all the pro-establishment opinion surrounding it is not about what took place that day.  It was about framing the narrative of Irish political discourse.  The country was brought to its knees by the actions of the government, the banking sector and the construction sector and one by one the public are expected to pick up the tab.

Whatever you may think about Paul Murphy, he is merely the latest focal point for the establishment to attack through various means.  If it wasn’t him it would be someone like Brendan Ogle.   Or Mick Wallace.  Or Ruth Coppinger.  Or Clare Daly.  The way this country is set up right now, it’s remarkably easy for those either wishing to suck up to the establishment or afraid to appear “too left” to play the man (or woman!!!) instead of the ball.

And what is the ball?  It’s the true political discussion, one that is not being had anywhere it matters.  It’s not about Fianna Fáil vs Fine Gael.  It’s not even about “haves” vs “have nots”, at least not precisely.

It’s about three distinct groups….those who speak for the “haves”, those who speak for the “have nots” and the most important of all, those burying their heads in the sand, making countless excuses for not getting involved.  Much like I tend to do.  At least I find the odd hour or two to voice my opinion here, though that of course is nowhere near enough.  JLP

Follow the Jobstown Not Guilty Facebook page here

#IANWAE

The US news cycle in the Trump era

It’s all about the “news cycle” these days.

And it has gotten to a point whereby we are almost afraid to mention the “wrong thing” at the water cooler lest we be, at best, left behind by a conversation, and at worst, accused of being irrelevant.

Here in Ireland, there only seems to be one topic on the go on any given day and that is determined by what gets covered by RTÉ.  One thing I will say about the US…at least there is enough room for something resembling a battle over what people consider to be political priorities.

According to the corporate Democrats, it’s all about whether or not Trump & his cohorts were in collusion with the Russians.

According to the Republicans, it’s all about pushing their pro-big business agenda, while at the same time making small anti-Trump noises once in a while in case he brings them with him if/when he goes down.

According to Trump, it’s all about him, and anything he doesn’t like is merely “fake news”.

According to the mainstream media, it’s all about either taking a Democrat or Republican position or desperately trying to be “fair” ie finding a position somewhere in between them.

According to the Alt Right online media, it’s all about trying to trying to bend the news cycle towards the conservative viewpoint by any means necessary.

According to the more progressive online media, it’s all about deconstructing all of the above, taking breaks every so often to get us to buy razors through the post.

And last but certainly not least, you have Bernie Sanders.  Whether you agree with his politics or not, you can’t deny that when he goes to the media, be it mainstream or social, it’s all about the issues.  No scandal, no smoke and mirrors, no dog whistling, just the issues, with facts to support his argument.

Like this on his Facebook page from yesterday…

Trump is trying to cut $191 billion from the food stamps program, our nation’s most critical anti-hunger program. All over this country we have millions of kids struggling with hunger. Trump is telling them: sorry, we need to put that money into our military, when we already spend more on defense than the next 12 countries combined. This pathetic budget will be rejected by the American people.

We could all do with being more like Bernie when it comes to discussing government.

#IANWAE

If Sean Fitzpatrick did not commit a crime then we need new laws. Now.

Oh, how this makes my blood boil.

Here are some viewpoints on the role former Anglo-Irish Bank chairman Sean FItzpatrick played in the Irish banking crisis.

According to the judicial system…

But Judge John Aylmer ruled this morning on day 126 of the trial that the investigation carried out by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement fell short of the impartial, unbiased investigation that an accused is entitled to.

According to Solidarity TD Richard Boyd Barrett…

Mr Boyd Barrett claimed Mr FitzPatrick walked free because of a set-up and not a blunder. “This stinks to high heaven,’’ he added.

Leas Cheann Comhairle Pat “The Cope’’ Gallagher intervened to say he was referring to a trial and should “refrain lest there might be consequences’’.

Mr Boyd Barrett said: “There is a direct link between Seánie FitzPatrick’s rotten, corrupt activities and Anglo Irish Bank and the families this week being sent to Garda stations or are sleeping in parks because there are no homes.’’

…and then we have the viewpoint of the Irish Times Legal Affairs correspondent Colm Keena

“Sean Fitzpatrick did not commit a crime.” (paraphrase)

It won’t surprise you to learn that my own views would tend to lean towards those of Deputy Barrett.  And while the Irish mainstream media takes such great pains to point out that he was speaking under “privilege” as if it is some kind of cowardly act, I would put forward the proposal that the opposite is the case.

Maybe it’s true that technically Fitzpatrick did not break any laws.  And I would go further in pointing out that watching him “sent down” will not make me feel any better about what the Irish banking sector did to this country.

But if the way he comported himself in both managing Anglo Irish loans and his own personal ones was “legal”, then surely it must be a priority of our parliament to bring proper laws into existence.  And if we can’t bring down a sentence on him in a court of law, how about one from the court of public opinion, making sure the new laws get known as (at least commonly assuming the Dáil would never approve it) The Sean Fitzpatrick Laws.

On the subject of what actually has been done to improve legislation since the crash, here is but one recommendation of the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis published in 2016…

A personal remuneration clawback provision linked to medium term performance should be part of the employment contract for senior executive management and board members.

Just to break that down…basically it seems to suggest that if a bank is losing money, the “bigwigs” at the bank should not make money in terms of bonuses.

BUT ISN’T THAT BLOODY WELL OBVIOUS???????  Did it really have to take a group of elected representatives the guts of three years to come up with stuff like that???

Like I said, blood boiling.  At least we have people like Deputy Barrett who are free to speculate as to what is really going on amongst the ranks of the establishment without fear of prosecution under libel laws by our nation’s real cowards.

#IANWAE

Help convince FF to stop vulture funds in Ireland by signing this petition from Uplift.ie

Needless to say we’re big believers in social media activism for progressive causes here at FPP so we’d like you to help them spread the word on this petition…


from Uplift.ie

‘We have more homeless people in Ireland than any time since the famine’

Fr. Peter Mc Verry

If we don’t act now, homelessness in Ireland could get much worse. A terrifying new breed of property buyers known as ‘Vulture Funds’ are swooping in to make a quick profit on the housing market in Ireland. [1] This could lead to evictions and home repossessions on a scale we’ve never seen before.

But, there’s a really good chance we could stop this if we act now. As we speak, Fianna Fáil are thinking about adopting a Bill that would take power away from Vulture Funds. If they get behind this Bill – it would most likely pass in the Dáil. This would mean that people in mortgage arrears could stay in their homes. [2]

We need to act quickly though. As we speak, Fianna Fáil are considering whether this Bill is a good move for them politically – and they’ll have panicked Vulture Funds ringing them up already. But, if we build a massive petition that goes viral – they’ll realise this is an issue voters care really deeply about – and they’ll be forced to listen to us instead.

We’re going to need a signature from every single Uplift member if we’re going to get noticed. So, how about it Jeff, can you add your name?

Yes, I’ll add my name 

Vulture Funds own almost 90,000 properties and almost €10.3 billion worth of assets in Ireland. And what’s worse is that they’ve paid less than €20,000 euro worth of tax. [3]

The Bill being considered by Fianna Fáil right now could seriously help curb the rise of Vulture Funds. It would set up a Government Agency that would look after people in mortgage arrears. Putting it simply – it would mean that people couldn’t be made homeless, just because they can’t pay their mortgage.  [4]

This could be a huge moment in our history. One where ordinary Irish people like you and me stand up and say no to the power of profit over people. We could show the world that we won’t stand by while people are pulled from their homes so vultures can get rich.

But first, we need to make sure our politicians are on our side – not the side of big global corporations.

So can you join the fight and sign the petition today?


#IANWAE