Déardaoin, Samhain 24, 2011

Building for November 30
Twenty trade unions representing around 175,000 public sector workers in the Six Counties have voted to strike next Wednesday, November 30. They will join million of workers in Britain for what union leaders there believe will be the biggest strike action since 1926.
This mass strike has been declared in response to the assault by the Tory-led government in London on the pensions of workers in the public sector.
This assault has come in a number of ways. The first is that the Tories wish to change the way pensions are adjusted each year for inflation. They want to change the way this is measured from the retail prices index (RPI) to the consumer prices index (CPI), which will cut 15 per cent from the value of public sector pensions.
The second is that the Tories will increase the pension contribution public sector workers make by 3.2 per cent by 2015. This is taken from workers’ wages and amounts to a new tax directly solely at public sector workers. Traditionally pension contributions are agreed through negotiation but in this instance the British government has decided to ram it through unilaterally.
The Stormont executive voted in September to follow the Tory line and introduce this measure to the Six Counties, though its Scottish counterpart has opposed the increase as long as the pay freeze remains in effect in the public sector.
The third measure is that the age of retirement in the public sector will be increased. So, the Tory-Lib Dem plan for the future of pensions is that workers will have to work longer and contribute more for pensions that are worth less.
Attacking the conditions of public sector workers is merely the thin edge of the wedge. The agenda of the Tories is ultimately to attack all public services – health, education, public transport, social welfare, and more – services that are of no use or importance to the millionaire-filled British cabinet and their capitalist masters.
November 30 will see teachers, classroom assistants, lunchladies and principals stepping out of school to join other public sector workers in rallies all over the Six Counties. Marches and rallies will take place in Belfast, Derry, Newry, Ballymena, Cookstown, Downpatrick, Magherafelt, Omagh, Portadown and more.
These rallies will send a strong message, but more will be needed. The trade unions have all voted in favour of further action beyond the strike on November 30. This ongoing campaign will include work-to-rule actions, lunchtime protests and more, with the possibility of more all-out strike action in the future.
In the end, only a concerted effort by public sector workers and the working-class communities who depend on their services will defeat the anti-social policies being implemented by the London government and its Stormont administration.

Dé Céadaoin, Samhain 23, 2011

The Experience of Unemployment in Ireland
Dole queueIn August 2011, The Geary Institute at University College Dublin published a discussion paper entitled The Experience of Unemployment in Ireland: A Thematic Analysis.
With unemployment standing at 14.4% in the Twenty Six Counties and continuing to rise, this paper could not be more relevant. The Authors explain their aim in writing the study is to examine “how material, emotional, psychological, social and physical well-being is being affected by unemployment”.
As the Fine Gael/ Labour Coalition prepare to cut an estimated €700 million [£600 million] from the social welfare budget for the coming year, this well researched and hard hitting paper takes an axe to the root of an idea, popular amongst the government and its cronies, that living on social welfare benefits is a lifestyle choice.
Parts of the paper make for harrowing reading as the authors document the sense of social isolation, political powerlessness and depression experienced by many unemployed people. The paper highlights how demoralising struggles to pay rent or mortgages, battles to find money for food or to pay household bills, combined with a guilt associated with spending money, all to often lead to a range of physical and mental health difficulties for the unemployed. This is the daily reality of life for the almost 510,000 Irish people on the dole, North and South.
Despite the Dublin Government constantly raising the idea that those on the dole are out to cheat the tax payer through rampant welfare fraud, participants in the study reveal how they are regularly faced with the choice of whether to eat or pay bills, whether to attend the doctor or to suffer in pain as they cannot afford the medical fees.
The experiences of life on the dole documented by the paper exposes the sick nature of the ruling class in Ireland that would attack the most vulnerable sections of our society to maintain their own comfortable position.
The testimonies of participants in the study serve as a stark warning to the Dublin government that cutting the social welfare budget will only result in the further impoverishment of hundreds of thousands of Irish Citizens and their families who are already struggling to survive. The type of cuts widely expected under this year’s budget are highly likely to have an all to real human cost.
The Experience of Unemployment in Ireland: A Thematic Analysis is a must read for all concerned about the issue of unemployment in Ireland and the impact it is having on wider Irish society and can be read in full at:

Dé Sathairn, Samhain 19, 2011

éirígí Condemn Attacks on Education System
Daithí Mac An Mháistiréirígí spokesperson Daithí Mac An Mháistir has slammed the Dublin government’s plans to cut funding to the education system. Speaking ahead of last Wednesday's (16th Nov) student demonstration in Dublin Mac An Mháistir said:
“The last number of months has witnessed a steady drip-feed of leaks from the government about its intentions for the education system. As recently as last weekend we had media stories about plans to cut grant and maintenance funding for post-graduate students. It is clear to the dogs on the street that the Dublin government are preparing the ground for major changes to the entire education system in this state. It appears that these changes will see class sizes at primary and secondary level increase whilst those attending third and fourth level will be forced to pay astronomical sums of money to complete their studies.
“When taken together these attacks on the education system represent a very significant blow to the very idea of free education for all. Without such a system the inequality gap in Irish society will continue to widen. Without access to a high quality free education system those from less well off backgrounds will face very real difficulties in attaining secondary level education, never mind third or fourth.
“The reason behind all of these attacks on the education system is, of course, the IMF/EU deal which the government has signed up to. The very idea of a free lifetime education system is anathema to the neo-liberal ideologues that run the IMF and the EU. They claim that austerity measures, including the slashing of education spending, are necessary for economic recovery – something which even the densest of Fine Gael and Labour ministers must be able to see through. How can the downgrading of an education system help with economic recovery? Where is the much talked about ‘smart economy’ going to come from if only the rich can access the higher levels of the education system?
“Cutting the budget of the education system is an act of social and economic vandalism which will be regretted for generations to come. A quality education system isn’t like a tap that can be turned on and off at will. It takes years of proper funding and planning to build the appropriate physical infrastructure and to develop the necessary pool of skilled and experienced teachers, academics, administrators and so forth. Cuts that take one budget to introduce could take decades to recover from.”
Mac An Mháistir concluded: “We in éirígí believe that a state-funded lifetime education system is an essential element of a just and stable society. We believe education to be one of the key drivers for the breaking down of class barriers as well as the ending of discrimination and inequality. We commend those students that are willing to bring the fight for a free education system directly to the government and encourage students and non-students alike to join the fight-back against the cuts to the education system.”

Students March Against Attacks on Education
At least twenty thousand students took to the streets of Dublin during Wednesday's protest against government plans to drastically increase third level student fees in Budget 2012.
A section of the marchThe government intends to reintroduce tuition fees and decrease the student grant, as well as further increase the registration fee which presently stands at €2,000 [£1,720]. Just last weekend further government plans to cut grant and maintenance funding for post-graduate students were revealed.
Increased fees will mean that fewer people will be able to continue their education into or beyond third level. Families are already struggling with job losses and cuts; many will simply not be able to find the money to support someone in college.
Education: Your Right – Your FightIt must be reiterated that cutting education funding will not lead to economic recovery. We will not achieve growth by frustrating the potential of young Irish people and consigning them to emigration and the dole.
The attack on education funding is being driven by the EU/IMF. The commercialisation and privatisation of education is a key component of their neoliberal creed.
By taking to the streets, Ireland’s students showed they would not simply be another passive victim of EU/IMF ideology.
The body of students marched from Parnell Square towards Leinster House. The atmosphere was upbeat and assertive. Members of éirígí walked behind a banner with the slogan ‘Education: Your Right – Your Fight’.
Protest at Fine Gael HQAt Merrion Square a section of students broke away from the march and made their way towards the Fine Gael Headquarters on Mount Street. This section was made up of students who had become disillusioned with the passive and meek tactics of the USI [Union of Students in Ireland] leadership over recent years. Under the banner of the student group FEE [Free Education for Everyone], this group of students staged a sit down protest outside the Fine Gael HQ.
After this short protest the students found their route back up Mount Street blocked by lines of USI Stewards. The USI stewards stood with linked arms in front of lines of Gardaí, and refused to allow the students to proceed up the road without confrontation.
Members of the Special Branch wearing USI t-shirts were also spotted among the crowd.
USI working for the GardaíThe USI leadership choose to work with the Gardaí to ensure that the student march remained merely a passive speechmaking affair for the USI leadership rather than a real expression of student dissent. The attitude of the USI leadership is nothing short of disgraceful, especially when one considers the number of students who were injured by Gardaí during last year’s march against fees.
The USI leadership would do well to reflect on the words of the Salvador Allende: “to be a student and not a revolutionary is a contradiction.”
Nevertheless, regardless of the position of the official union leaderships, Irish students and teachers will continue to resist the ever increasing attacks on education. Education is right, not a privilege.

Dé Luain, Samhain 14, 2011

Resistance to Shell continues – Shell to Sea Day of Solidarity
Last Friday [11 November], over 100 people gathered at the gates of the Ballinaboy gas refinery in Erris, County Mayo in solidarity with the local community and in memory of Nigerian activist Ken Saro Wiwa and his eight comrades, executed in November 1995 by the Nigerian dictatorship for resisting Shell’s destructive operations in the Niger Delta.
In the early hours of 10 November 2006 Gardaí baton charged campaigners at Ballinaboy bridge who had gathered to protest against the building of the gas refinery. It was a violent illustration of the nature of the state and its defence of corporate interests. Young and old were beaten, flung into ditches and trampled underfoot. It was a harrowing experience, particularly for those who until then had believed the state would act in the interests of the people.
Having handed over the people’s resources to multinational oil corporations; sold 400 acres of state forestry for the building of an onshore refinery to process high pressure raw and odourless gas; legislated for corporations to compulsory acquire private land; ensured planning permissions were granted for a highly dangerous and environmentally destructive project and jailed those who dared to protest at this affront to democracy, the state resorted to deploying its police force in an attempt to violently quell continued and determined resistance.
At the time, Bertie Ahern, the mafia like Don who led a government in the pocket of corporations, not surprisingly, defended the gardaí’s violent actions and cheered on Shell, “the negotiations are over, the rule of law has to be implemented and the work goes on. And if there are those who try to frustrate that, they’re breaking the law and it’s a matter for the gardaí to enforce it.” His comments displayed the arrogance of a government that oversaw rampant corruption in the banking sector and took bungs from property speculators. ‘Laws’ it seemed were for the ‘little people’ while corporate corruption was supported and facilitated.
The cracking of heads on the bridge at Ballinaboy was simply an extension of that belief. If considered necessary, the interests of Shell would be enforced at the butt end of garda batons. Yet five years on from that violent attack, the community and the Shell to Sea campaign continues to resist the corporate takeover of our gas reserves and the environmental destruction of Erris.
The Day of Solidarity commenced at 7am with several dozen activists, many of whom had travelled from Dublin to stand in solidarity with the local community, standing on the road at Aughoose to block workers accessing the site. Having remained in place for several hours and forced numerous work vehicles to turn back, activists made their way to the gates of the Bellinaboy refinery. Here they were joined by dozens of local people. Carrying crosses bearing the names of the Ogoni Nine: Ken Saro-Wiwa, Barinen Klobel, John Kpuinen, Baribor Bera, Saturday Dobee, Felix Nuate, Nordu Eawo, Paul Levurah and Daniel Gbokoo; the crowd walked from the gates of the refinery to the Bellinaboy bridge where the garda baton charge of 2006 was recalled.
On return to the refinery gates, and in solidarity with the global Occupy movement, an Occupy ‘Shellenaboy’ camp was erected and banners hung from the fencing surrounding the refinery site. The crowd was addressed by local Shell to Sea activists Terence Conway and Maura Harrington with proceedings monitored by the garda Special Branch and IRMS, Shell’s private security goon squad.
In a powerful address Maura thanked all those who attended and emphasised the fact that the campaign has always been about local, national and international concerns, illustrated by the fact that many had travelled from different parts of the country to stand with the local community and the remembrance of the Ogoni Nine. Maura highlighted the importance of defending place, recalled that the community had been resisting this project for eleven years and castigated the corrupt ruling elite in the Twenty Six Counties for its continued support of corporate interests. Those who had passed away during the course of the campaign were recalled some of whom had died as a result of the toll the campaign had taken on them. In conclusion, Maura vowed that the resistance to state and corporate power would continue.
Since its inception, the Twenty Six Counties has been dominated by powerful private interests whose every need has been catered to by a pliant state. The recent issuing of 13 licencing options for exploration in the Atlantic Margin, where vast oil and gas reserves lie, demonstrates that the new government is simply an extension of the old. The great oil and gas giveaway continues and will do so until sufficient numbers actively resist the corporate takeover of our natural resources.
The Erris community and Rossport Solidarity Camp have been to the forefront in resisting Shell and the corrupt corporate state of the Twenty Six Counties. But they cannot do it alone. The demand that our oil and gas reserves are utilised in the interests of the people must be central to the campaign of opposition to austerity and the EU/IMF takeover. The people of Erris need your support to continue their 11 year campaign of resistance. Their struggle is our struggle. For more information on the campaign and how to get involved check www.shelltosea.com andwww.rossportsolidaritycamp.org

Dé Sathairn, Samhain 05, 2011

Colombia: the new wave of social protest and the dirty war against the people
ColombiaWhile much is known about the shocking human rights situation in Colombia, little is known about the Colombian resistance movement and popular struggle against neo-liberalism and imperialism. This year has witnessed a dramatic increase in popular struggles all over the country: students, oil workers, peasants, poor communities, indigenous groups. As a result, the dirty war waged by the system has become even dirtier. Massacres are on the rise and so are military actions all over the country.
In February 2010 a human rights delegation from Asturias visited Colombia for the sixth time to record the humanitarian crisis in the country. They were harassed by the army and were denied access to interview political prisoners in the infamous prison of Valledupar, La Tramacúa, where a number of political prisoners have died this year out of ill-treatment, torture and deprivation. They did manage to cover the situation in the departments of Antioquia, Caquetá, Cauca, Cesar, Putumayo, Bolívar y Cundinamarca. In all of these places, they corroborated the dramatic humanitarian situation and the systematic abuse of the military and their death squads against the population. Most importantly of all however, they give a voice to those who day to day struggle for a just Colombia, for a new country which belongs equally to all of its offsprings.
The results of the mission and many interviews were recorded in a documentary (subtitled to English for the first time). This will be screened to open up a debate on the situation in Colombia.
The coordinator of this commission, Javier Orozco, a person with a deep knowledge of the Colombian conflict and with an international reputation for his work for human rights, will present the documentary and will be available for questions and answers from the public.
Javier Orozco Peñaranda (50), is an ex-member of the national executive of Colombia's main trade union (CUT), ex-member of the national council of peasant and indigenous organisations of Colombia. He has been a refugee in Spain since 2001 (after a death squad put a price on his head) and now he's the coordinator of the programme for temporary asylum for Colombians victims of violence in Asturias.
  • Derry: Saturday 5th November. Sandino's bar, Water Street, 7pm
  • Belfast: Monday 7th November. Red Devil bar, Falls Road, 7pm
  • Galway: Tuesday 8th November. Galway Public Library, Augustine Street, 7pm
  • Cork: Wednesday 9th November. Solidarity Books, Douglas Street, 8pm
  • Dublin: Thursday 10th November. Pearse Centre, Pearse Street, 7pm

Dé Máirt, Samhain 01, 2011

Zionists Resume Isolation of Ahmad Sa’adat
Ahmad Sa’adatAddameer, the Palestinian Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, revealed on Thursday October 27 that an Israeli court has decided to extend the isolation of PFLP general secretary Ahmad Sa’adat for another year.
The ruling is in direct violation of an agreement between Israeli prison authorities and Palestinian prisoners a week earlier that ended a mass hunger strike by detainees held in zionist jails.
The Israelis had promised that detainees would be released from isolation immediately after 477 prisoners were freed in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on October 18. A further 550 detainees are to be released in the near future.
Around 20 prisoners continue to be held in isolation, and several prisoners have been in isolation for a number of years, including Sa’adat.
Sa’adat was transferred to Ramle prison hospital when his health deteriorated after three weeks on hunger strike. He was brought to the court in Bir Saba on Thursday for the ruling.
éirígí representative John McCusker said, “We’re disappointed but not at all surprised by this recent development. It’s no shock to hear that the zionists have increased the punishment of Palestinian prisoners after the deal was struck to release 1,000 detainees.
“We welcome the release of the prisoners but we can’t take our eyes off the fact that over 6,000 Palestinians continue to be held captive by the Israelis, and they are susceptible to punishment and torture.
“We in éirígí reiterate our call for the freedom of all Palestinian prisoners held by the zionists, and we say again that ultimately only a free Palestine offers a just solution to the prison issue.”