"Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?"

Our apology to Gene Kerrigan for taking this extract from his article 'The tax laws are now a la carte, for some' in last Sunday's Irish Independent.  However, it is a good analogy for what the State is prepare to do, to abuse a 17 year old Irish student in pursuit of underlying agendas.  It has dragged a youth through the judicial system,  a jury less court and convicted him with 'false imprisonment'.  It was the first case in a series of cases against the Jobstown protesters.  

Gene Kerrigan

Gene Kerrigan

There's been a bit of a war going on, between the shameless bastards and the rest of us. Not an all-out conflict, just guerrilla actions here and there.

In recent days we've seen groups of organised labour attempting to win back some of that which was taken from them over the past eight years.

Bus drivers, teachers and gardai used limited industrial action to try to retake ground conceded following the bailout of bankers and builders.

Another area of conflict has been the Irish Water scandal. This erupted when Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour sought to produce a revenue stream from the water supply, which could then be privatised.

This sneaky and always-denied strategy was stymied by a grassroots revolt, people from all around the country who knew they were being scalped.

One of the consequences of this conflict popped up in the courts on Thursday, when a juvenile who took part in a protest against Minister Joan Burton was found guilty of "false imprisonment".

I read Independent.ie's report of the judge's summing up of the prosecution evidence. Sorry, M'Lord - I don't see the imprisonment, false or otherwise, but no doubt you are wise and good.

The civil disobedience tactic of the sit-down protest has been well-chronicled, from Gandhi through to Martin Luther King, in civil rights and labour struggles. An Irish court has now reconstituted this act as "false imprisonment". The credentials of the juvenile involved were given to the court and he seems uncommonly public-spirited, usefully engaged with his community. He's had the full weight of State power dumped on him over the past two years.

Some day someone will write an academic study of the precise steps taken by the State to bring all its forces to bear on what seems to have been the mild actions of a 15-year old.

For now, we can only quote the conservative journalist William Rees-Mogg, in turn quoting Alexander Pope. Rees-Mogg used Pope's phrase when commenting on the UK State's overbearing effort to jail Mick Jagger: "Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?"

The late Judge Adrian Hardiman, who died suddenly seven months ago, was often critical of journalists, and some of us returned the favour. But from his early days as a lawyer he had a genuine concern about the tension between the power of the State and the rights of the individual. What a pity that, should the "false imprisonment" appeal reach the Supreme Court, we won't hear his views on this most unusual case.

While labour and community groups have had mixed fortunes in the conflict, it's widely understood that the rich are enjoying some sweet victories.

source: Irish Independent, Oct 23, 2016


How much more of this can we take?

Dodging decisions, coddling the rich, Enda seeks his rightful place in history, writes Gene Kerrigan

Illustration by Tom Halliday

Illustration by Tom Halliday

You'd almost feel sorry for Enda Kenny. There he is, securing his place in the history of this great little nation, and right in front of him Fine Gael is interviewing candidates for his job.

He's on the phone to Angela Merkel and in come Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, measuring the office curtains and arguing about which of them gets to choose the new carpet.

"Don't mind us, Taoiseach, we'll be out of your hair in a minute", and they trying to keep the chuckles out of their voices.

Since the general election in February, we've been living in a political fantasy land, designed by and built in honour of Mr Kenny. We could have a stable government, albeit a reactionary one, but that would be against the long-term interests of the major parties.

In 2011, Fine Gael got the votes of those disgusted by Fianna Fail, their banker friends and their builder buddies.

In 2016, disgusted by the endless austerity, the more desperate of such voters went back to Fianna Fail, most went all over the place.

Some to Sinn Fein, some to the left-wing parties, many to Independents.

The arithmetic of the election results was simple. Only a coalition of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail could provide a stable government. It would be a grim right-wing government, but that's what the arithmetic said, and there was no unbridgeable gap in policy.

The two parties, though, insist on maintaining the old civil war enmities. Besides, Enda Kenny desperately wanted to be Taoiseach again, the first Fine Gael Taoiseach to be re-elected at the head of a Fine Gael-led government.

There was an even more pressing reason to avoid a straightforward coalition. Throughout the history of the State, the division has been between two right-wing parties. Each might embrace populist policies, lurch to the centre occasionally, but mostly it was about who would best manage the same policies.

If FF and FG joined in formal coalition, sitting on the same side of the Dail, the future choice would be between them and an opposition on their left.

Such a coalition would be a stable government, but at the price of having to abandon the old mock fights. It would risk conceding credibility to Sinn Fein and the left-wing parties.

Desperate to avoid this, Kenny cobbled together a makeshift, unstable coalition with Independents to form a minority government. Fianna Fail is a semi-detached part of that coalition, while still dominating the opposition benches.

So, we get an unstable government that might collapse at any time.

And a cabinet that last week bought itself time by ditching the principle of collective responsibility, and to hell with the Constitution.

Enda keeps inventing mechanisms to put off decisions until this collapsible government is in office long enough not to look like a historical joke - at which point he can credibly quit.

FF denounces the government, then votes with it - even when it's voting down something that was a redline issue a few months back.

Daily, the air is filled with anguished cries as John Halligan wrestles with his conscience. (Small tip, John: do one thing, or the other. Don't tell us about your anguish. It's embarrassing.)

I wish I could read journalist Shane Ross making mincemeat of Minister Shane Ross.

Meanwhile, Enda last week appointed James Reilly deputy leader of Fine Gael, because he felt a bit guilty about the way he'd treated him. James says he's delighted, because he gets to travel around the country, talking to Fine Gaelers.

Jesus, lads, deputy leader of Fine Gael - you have no idea the number of backsides most of us would kiss, the number of kittens we'd strangle, to get out of being saddled with such a terrible fate.

Katherine Zappone - well, words fail me.

And Frances Fitzgerald last week referred to Joe Biden as "my counterpart". It seems that as Tanaiste she's vice-president to Enda Obama.

From time to time, there's a crack in the facade and we get a glimpse of the fantasy world in which these people see themselves.

All of this is facilitated by a political press gang that cannot imagine change that goes beyond the political Lego kit made of FF, FG, Labour and Others. In the months during which Enda was putting together his collapsible government, the political media tried to envisage something new, and failed, falling into reveries about the fictional Borgen. Politics as a TV box set.

Outside the Dail, Joe O'Toole was appointed to head the body designed to delay a decision on the water charges scandal. He promptly mouthed off, attacking those against water charges. Simon Coveney, who appointed him, accused O'Toole of being - get this - "overly forthright".

Simon seems to believe that being forthright -meaning, frank, honest, sincere - has no place in Irish politics.

O'Toole noted that his job was "a political exercise" designed to "resolve a problem which has emerged from the democratic process".

Admirably frank, Joe.

Joe explained said that "people voted a certain way", (against water charges). And "Leinster House is not prepared to grasp that particular nettle, so we (his commission) have to find a solution that will have enough sugar on it to make the medicine go down easily".

Sweeten the water charges nettle to get the mugs to swallow it. A lovely image, Joe.

O'Toole's words came from his understanding of the job, as conveyed to him by Simon Coveney. I wonder how Simon explained the job to Joe's replacement, Kevin Duffy?

So, the Government spins in circles until Enda figures he's been Taoiseach long enough to make his record bid legit. All the while hoping that it doesn't collapse, by accident or design.

The net effect of Enda's period in office will be assessed when he goes, but the raw materials for that assessment are coming together.

In the last couple of years, hospital waiting lists have gone up by 26pc. And, according to Journal.ie's FactCheck outfit, in the two years to May inpatient waiting lists have risen by 56pc.

House building fell drastically since the crash of 2008, as might be expected. Since Fine Gael and Labour - and now Fine Gael and Fianna Fail (plus Others) came into office, house building has been in freefall.

And local authority house building has been virtually stamped out of existence.

Homelessness is not an accident. Under Fianna Fail, playing chicken with the economy, it was inevitable. Under Enda, Leo and Simon (and vice-president Fitzgerald) it's been a policy.

Last Tuesday evening in the Dail, Sinn Fein raised measures to tackle zero-hour contracts, which exploit the very hardworking low paid. Fine Gael wanted to immediately shoot down reform.

Fianna Fail supported this, then made a pitch for the trade union vote by postponing the issue (until the cows come home).

As they keep the poor in place, their policies coddle the rich.

Last week, Stephen Donnelly and Richard Boyd Barrett both alerted the Dail to the effects of government support for vulture funds. Donnelly spoke of one outfit that will get a return of €400m on an €80m investment.

Of course, they have to pay tax. Donnelly explained one aspect of that: "Interest income minus the interest costs for the year come to €4,559,904. Astoundingly, the figure for administrative expenses against that is €4,558,904, leaving exactly €1,000 in taxable profit."

So neat, so well done, it makes me feel like cheering. Or screaming.

Original article: Gene Kerrigan Irish Independent, July 10, 2016


All hail the new Fianna Gael Alliance

 

The Irish, it seems, are too thick to think about more than one serious issue at a time, writes Gene Kerrigan

Gene Kerrigan

Cartoonist: Tom Halliday

Cartoonist: Tom Halliday

The Fine Gael/Fianna Fail Alliance, after spending two whole months forming a government, is agreed on the continuation of the Irish Water project.

Fianna Fail, being a party of principle, stoutly held to its election promise that it would not enter coalition with Fine Gael. They entered the Alliance instead.

Fianna Fail, being a party of no principle beyond its own advancement, readily agreed to ditch its election promise to "abolish Irish Water".

But, of course, Irish Water doesn't matter any more.

We're all agreed, are we not - the Fianna Gael Alliance, the Independent Alliance, and the officer class of the media - that there are "far more important issues" than Irish Water.

And it's only €3 a week.

They're right - in that most of us can afford €3 a week.

But they're also wrong. The combined actions of FF and FG, with their helpers, have resulted in the spread of low-wage jobs, so that more people than ever don't have a spare €3 at the end of the week.

There are other people who have the €3, but things are so tight that they have to choose carefully how they spend it.

And there are people who could manage the €3 but they figure they've already taken a financial hiding, to save the bankers and the builders.

Ah, but, say the Fianna Gael Alliance fans, surely there are more serious issues?

They're right - and, again, they're wrong.

They're right because the consequences of homelessness, or a chaotic public health service, or property speculation, or untreated mental problems, are far more serious than the consequences of water charges.

But, they're wrong in that we don't have to forget Irish Water in order to be angry at Leo Varadkar diverting millions from mental health resources. We know they have a low regard for us, but we're not nearly as dim as the average backbencher.

Irish Water has been about siphoning money from us, to no good purpose, but the long-term aim has been privatisation.

The protests have been about the money - and they forced FG/Labour to drastically reduce the charges. But they've also been about opposition to selling the water supply to private interests. Few things anger people more than being treated as a fool. And what has angered many, even those who reluctantly coughed up for the water charges, was the brazen way in which the parties tried to take us for a ride.

Where did Irish Water come from? What has been going on? Let's consider what we found out over the past two years.

A cynical Chicago politician laid down a rule: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." He meant that a crisis gives manipulative politicians an opportunity to get away with things that would arouse dissent in normal times.

From the 1980s, the Thatcher revolution spread the gospel of privatisation: transport, water, telecoms - the quality of services declined, as fat cats vanished over the horizon in trucks full of money.

In Ireland, the politicians followed suit where possible, and did so with their usual efficiency. Telecoms - closely followed by the Moriarty Tribunal; bin charges, closely followed by a decline in service. They're working on transport, and making a hash of it.

Privatising water was dicey. No one dared try it on.

Then, the bankers crashed the economy in 2008. And, you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.

In 2009, Fine Gael invented the notion of Irish Water; in 2010 Fianna Fail ran with it; FG picked up the ball after the 2011 election.

The European Central Bank, working to the same privatisation agenda, pushed things along.

This, of course, is all left-wing paranoia. Until you look at the record. Or try to.

What was discussed at Irish Water's initial meetings? That would be nice to know, but as RTE's This Week programme found out, a rake of meetings took place without the retention of minutes recording what was discussed or decided.

This is not at all usual.

The customary hordes of "consultants" feasted on the easy prey - a pack of cheetahs descending on a virginal gazelle. Around €50m was spent on consultants, we were told, then we got a total of €86m spent on consultants and lawyers.

A nominal €150m was set aside for setting up the company, with a "contingency" fund of another €30m - maybe that was for tea bags and Marietta biscuits in case anyone got peckish at those un-minuted meetings.

Irish Water furiously denied splashing bonuses around to the top staff. The top staff, they said, were given "performance-related rewards".

Half a billion was spent on meters. A vast Irish Water set-up exists to raise the money it costs to run Irish Water.

But, really, privatisation? They wouldn't be so manipulative, would they?

You can't sell a utility paid for out of tax. You must create a "revenue stream" to produce a profit for speculators.

We know that a PwC report commissioned by the Government wrote of "competitive markets in the water sector at a later date". It suggested Irish Water be designed for "the possibility of future retail competition".

We know that Eurostat wrote bluntly, in a letter to the Central Statistics Office, that "privatisation is ultimately envisaged". Outfits like Eurostat are used to calling things as they see them.

The CSO asked for that reference to be removed from the letter.

We know that when Irish Water started writing to us it demanded our PPS numbers: and our home phone numbers, mobile numbers, email addresses and bank account details.

Why did they need all this data? They said it was so they'd know where to deliver the water.

Eh, you've got a goddamn pipe leading to our homes.

They were creating a database that would be a lucrative asset when it came time to privatise Irish Water.

How do we know they would treat our data as an "asset"?

Well, when you ploughed through a difficult-to-read website you found that in a sale of Irish Water our data "will be one of the transferred assets".

Irish Water could transfer or process our data at will, the website said, and "by submitting data to Irish Water, the Customer agrees to this".

When they knew people were ferreting around their site, they took down the stuff about privatisation.

Oh, that old stuff, that was - well, we didn't mean to put that up, that was a mistake. Really.

Spontaneous protest, beyond anything that the Left could organise, sprang up. This forced the politicians to cut the bills, temporarily. The aim is to do whatever it takes to get us on the books, to create that saleable "revenue stream".

Protesters were bad-mouthed as a "sinister fringe". They were compared to Islamic State. Every mistake by any individual - and there were mistakes - was treated as a planned manoeuvre by the whole movement. It was not the media's finest hour.

Already, the politicians who have wreaked havoc on public health, asset-stripped the citizens and presided over soaring rates of suicide, tell us we must stop thinking about Irish Water. And think of serious issues.

As though we're incapable of taking a position on more than one serious issue at a time.

Already, I'm sorry to say - but not surprised - the media has joined in this meme. All hail, it seems, the new Fianna Gael Alliance! There will be fun to be had spotting the odd infight. But the media, I fear, is entering one of its "responsible" periods. As the cringe-making media performance on "government formation" showed, we don't have sources, we have handlers.

Original article: Sunday Independent May 1, 2016