Tom Gilmartin – the Man Who Brought Down Bertie Ahern
June 9, 2014

Tom Gilmartin’s story, told by Frank Connolly in his new book “Tom Gilmartin – the Man Who Brought Down a Taoiseach and Exposed the Greed and Corruption at the Heart of Irish Politics,” (Gill and MacMillan) is an Odyssean  journey through Irish business and political life of the second half of the 20th century.  Connolly goes through 5 decades of Gilmartin’s life – as a young emigrant going from Sligo to Luton in the 1950s, making a success in the U.K. in the 60s and 70s as an engineer and a developer, then, from the 1970s to the 1990s, going back to Dublin to invest millions,and running into a wall of corruption and insider dealing. This finally brought Gilmartin into the heart of the Irish political turmoil in the 2000s when he became one of the main evidence-givers to the Mahon (Flood) Tribunal into “Certain Planning Matters.”

GiImartin had come back to Ireland sensing a good business opportunity in the Dublin’s underdeveloped and outdated commercial infrastructure, but was also motivated by a wish to provide  jobs and go some way to help stem the bleed of emigration from Ireland’s stunted and moribund economy.   Gilmartin began to assemble lands for development, first on the North side of the city centre, then at Quarryvale, at the future Liffey Valley Shopping site, west of the city at the M50.  What he found was that “the place was totally corrupt.” As soon as he landed, vultures and jackals getting the scent of funds and potential profit descended on him, leeching off and incapacitating his plans.  It seems like the whole Golden Circle wanted a cut out of any development profit for doing nothing.  The next 20 years were years of effort, frustration and disillusion.

The book is a labyrinthine voyage  though a morass of self-seeking power holders, power brokers and bagmen.  Bankers and Gardai were there too, to fund and protect the connected. Gilmartin found that development planning and control powers were seen as assets by politicians and by some public servants, to be auctioned off to the highest bidder for personal gain.  “Party donations” from developers were quietly pocketed by politicians, with a blind eye turned by the party. Professional fixers and middlemen like Frank Dunlop expected a cut at every turn.

Ultimately, after resisting the pressures for years, Gilmartin’s Irish development company and the fruit of decades of his work was taken off him by the future beneficiaries of the west Dublin project: O’Callaghan, Cork Developer (and big donor to Fianna Fail), and the Allied Irish Bank, ably assisted by fulltime bagmen Liam Lawlor TD.and Frank Dunlop, who also got their cut.  A donation of £50,000, given to Fianna Fail, in the desperate hope that it would get the incessant demands off his back, he later found had been taken by Flynn and never reached the party.

Such was the greed of the political class for more enrichment from property transactions that the Irish Government skewed the entire economy to promote construction, until the resulting property bubble exploded and left us with an unrepayable debt that has ruined the country and the aftermath is continuing to ruin hundreds of thousands of lives. By the time Bertie Ahern called the 2007 General Election to ‘get in’ before the big damage of the Tribunal struck home, civil servants and bankers were already using desperation measures to keep the banks afloat.  By the time of Bertie Ahern’s resignation as Taoiseach in May 2008 all of the Irish banks were facing imminent bankruptcy. By the time he resigned from Fianna Fail in 2012 his own party and the country was pretty well wrecked.

The systemic corruption, with cheques and cash lures for politicians handed out in bulk, led to public outcry and to investigation, initially focused on rezoning.  The Tribunal Into Certain Planning Matters (the Flood, or Mahon Tribunal) was established in 1997 with broad terms of reference and finally reported just over a year ago.

The Tribunal process gave moments of drama that punctuate the book.  Most people first heard Tom Gilmartin’s name in the early days of the Tribunal in Pee Flynn’s nauseating display of gombeen arrogance and clownish pantomime on the Late Late Show, in which he attempted to sully the reputation of Gilmartin and his family while boasting of the high life style afforded him as an EU Commissioner.  It was that shocking performance from Flynn with the gratuitous insult to himself and his wife, that brought Gilmartin back from England to give evidence at the Tribunal.

P. Flynn on the Late Late Show,  RTE, 1999

“He’s not well, his wife is not well , and he’s out of sorts.”

The next game changer was Mary O’Rourke’s evidence in the Tribunal, where in bravura style she made liars of most of the Cabinet and the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, by telling how she met Gilmartin in the Daíl at a meeting which they had all sworn never took place.  From that moment, Ahern’s days in political power were numbered and Gilmartin’s many days of evidence, which had been repeatedly labelled as ‘fantasy’ was accepted as fact.

The third and final ‘moment of truth’ was when Bertie Ahern’s former secretary Grainne Carruth broke down giving evidence about funds she had banked for Aherne,  The evidence contradicted evidence given by Ahern. The personal torment she went through from trying to remain loyal to Ahern whilst giving evidence on oath brought a new level of public contempt and disgust on Ahern, for putting her through this.  It led to his resignation as Taoiseach.

The final report of the Mahon Tribunal was published on 22 March 2012.  Gilmartin’s allegations about an Irish mafia in politics, and in construction, were thoroughly vindicated.  Bertie Ahern resigned from Fianna Fail two days later.

(The Tribunal)  found that former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern failed to “truthfully” explain source of money and it rejected his evidence of “dig-outs”, and that former EU Commissioner Pádraig Flynn “wrongly and corruptly” sought donation from Tom Gilmartin.[6] 

On corruption in public life, Judge Mahon stated in the report that: “It continued because nobody was prepared to do enough to stop it. This is perhaps inevitable when corruption ceases to become an isolated event and becomes so entrenched that it is transformed into an acknowledged way of doing business. Specifically, because corruption affected every level of Irish political life, those with the power to stop it were frequently implicated in it.”[18]

There is an important sub-theme of the book which resonates as much as does the story of corruption.  The attitude in Ireland to returned emigrants can be hostile and suspicious.  Returned emigrants threaten the exclusive hold of the ‘stayers’ on their territory and resources.

Most people who came back to Ireland in the 1980s or early 90s would have experienced this in the context of business and work.  In the boom, with full employment and apparently limitless cash, the attitude softened.  A person respected and successful in much bigger circles abroad, can be treated dismissively ‘back home. ‘  The tight insider circles of power mistrust and are in fierce competition with returned migrants. The petty social snobbery thrown at Gilmartin by the noxious poltroon Flynn is like  a thread of dross running through this whole story. Gilmartin won respect from the wider public for his honest and fearless rebuttals.

Thomas Gilmartin jnr says about this

My take on the story is of a man let down throughout his life by the state for not being from the right family or having the right connections, a man able to flourish outside such a toxic environment, and a man brought down by that same culture because he refused to play their game.

The bigger picture is even more damning than the detail of what went on. The absence of consequences, the apparent contempt for the rule of law in Ireland if you’re on the inside, and the betrayal of the legacy of those, like Dad’s father, who fought for independence, are also an indictment of the state.

Following the report of the Mahon Tribunal, the Irish Government referred the 3,270-page report to the Garda Commissioner, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Revenue Commissioners and to the Standards in Public Office Commission. Discussion of the outcome of that recommendation is welcome on Politicalworld.org discussion forum.

Tom Gilmartin died towards the end of last year.  His robust honesty, determination,  firm personal morality and his humour will all be missed.

His son Thomas jnr., who had ridden shotgun with his father throughout the Tribunal, while fighting the good fight online as Toxic Avenger, took part in the launch of Connolly’s book.  Fittingly, he talked about his father, and the book – and the state of Ireland – on the Late Late Show recently:

Tom Gilmartin jnr:  the Late Late Show, RTE, 2014

This book is a gripping read (enough so to displace John Grisham for this year’s summer holiday), and an essential work for anyone seriously interested in Irish politics.  It was written by Connolly over a ten year period, which adds to the feeling of a journey travelled. For a second edition, it would be helpful to provide a skeleton time line of the Tribunal process for readers of the generation for whom it is modern history.

The book is very well illustrated by contemporary photographs of the main players and has an appendix detailing the Tribunal process and findings.  Read, weep, rage and enjoy.

Cass Flower 7 June 2014

 

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Here is the CEO of AIB not knowing how much the Irish State is paying bank bondholders this year
September 4, 2013

  Dr. FIVE 4 September 2013

Watch and discuss this weeks Oireachtas hearings into the Banks and Finance at Politicalworld.org

The Sexual Repression of the Irish People
March 22, 2013

“Lock them up and don’t let them see the cold light of day” more than likely was a thought that ran through the head of the nuns as they threw single mothers back into their rooms after a long day at the laundry working tirelessly to make a quick bucks for the holy orders that ran such kips. Single mothers were placed in these institutions because they had a child outside of marriage, children were given up for adoption or sent into some industrial school and the mothers looked upon with disgrace, daring to have sex outside of marriage. Even at that, it was not only single mothers whom were sent but women whom may have been single but seen to have been too beautiful for how she may tempt man to “partake of her flesh”. Women from society of all types were sent against their will to the laundries. The last of these institutions only closed in 1996, closing its doors never again to be opened thankfully. Ireland however has still held itself back all these years, the closing of the last Magdalene laundry marked a delineation in the role of Irish society perhaps not frowning upon the sexual being that is inside all of us but to think it was a complete delineation is far from the truth.

The Ryan report unmasked the level at which child abuse was prevalent all through the schools run by the Irish church and to what extent the abuse was perpetrated. Priests, most of whom were placed under an obligation to stay celibate, were shown to have been abusing children to satiate some sort of urge they had which can be attributed partially to the twisting of norms at the time at what was accepted and what was not. Sexually you only had sex to procreate and sex for any other reason was seen as a sin except in households where the wife was expected to grit her teeth, spread her legs and think of Ireland in what became a societal norm and not seen as it should have been, an abuse of women’s rights , a violation of her own body.

Donal Fallon’s article recently on thejournal.ie on the rise to prominence of the Irish sex shop (http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/sex-shops-ireland-706612-Dec2012/) illustrates in parallels the acceptance gradually of the rise of the acceptance of some aspects of our sexuality and the decline in catholic faith as the 90’s came and went so did more sex shops to the point they are now a feature very much of the Irish landscape. When Peter Stringfellow opened his strip club in the mid 2000’s, the old dears of the Legion of Mary (LOM) sought to close down the establishment for lap dances (http://www.irishexaminerusa.com/mt/2006/07/19/stringfellows_closes_in_dublin.html)

Ireland however is still trapped in a mire of sexual repression. Speaking to a friend last night from Boston he told me he was amazed at a recent trip to a gay sauna where men would only ‘play’ with him in the dark room, they would not give him the time of day but in the dark anything was fair game, sex with the lights off common enough I’m sure with Irish people ashamed at the thoughts of making love. Typically the Irish male is at complete odds with the Irish female in the bedroom, the woman likes to be held while the Irish man upholds the stereotype of being masculine and being afraid to cuddle, show me an Irish man who wears his heart on his sleeve and I will buy you a pint (perhaps). Where does this come from this cold heart? A mix of Catholic guilt, pressure to conform to male stereotypes and a lack of emotion from parents perhaps all conspire to create this cold shameful sexual Irish being.

Abortion and homosexuality aside, issues discussed to death on the corridors of http://www.Politicalworld.org Ireland, lets face it, are sexually constrained. Our youth are only now being thought about contraception, years after Nell Mc Cafferty and others went on the pill train and young men could not buy condoms in the Virgin Megastore on Aston Quay. Online young men are afraid to come out to express their sexual preference as are young lesbians. Cast of your shackles Ireland, we are but a nation economically screwed, morale is low and we have no money to spend but we do have one and other Ireland.

Make love, not war!

fluffybiscuits 21.3.2013

How and Why Ming Flanagan Came a Cropper
March 17, 2013

This week the love him or loathe him Libertarian Lefty rural hero-villain Luke Ming Flanagan came a cropper. Seemingly hoist by his own petard, after being exposed as having committed the very same corrupt act that he himself had railed against. His excuses ringing hollow and naive at best. Serves him right is fair comment and he was quite rightly exposed for his hypocrisy. Off with his hypocritical little head, came the cry from the establishment and media. Of course what they really meant was, get that little mouthy git and get him good. Not for the crime of having his points wiped. For them, Luke’s biggest crime was telling on the system, naming names and breaking the conspiracy of silence.

There are 60,000 or so more cases of point wiping, all potentially as bad or worse than Ming’s offence. When these were brought up, the desire to shoot the messenger was palpable and there was ZERO official outrage at the implications of those 60,000 wipings. Comparing the muted establishment reaction that greeted the new Lowry revelations to the hysteria over Ming tells you all you need to know.

Ming has been taken out and shot with outrage by those who couldn’t have cared less about the other cases or about the identites of other not-named Oireachtas members. Ming’s fall from grace has proven that points can be improperly wiped and are wiped. The outrage is that Ming is a hypocrite and not that there are thousands of others in the same boat that everyone in authority wants to forget about. No calls for any other heads were issued, only sympathy that they’d been associated with the rat was forthcoming.

Independent TD Luke Ming Flanagan commented:“This country should protect whistleblowers, it never has and it’s one of the reasons we’re in the hole we are in. We need to protect whistleblowers.”

http://www.thejournal.ie/joan-collins-clare-daly-penalty-points-701259-Dec2012/

So the flawed hypocritical whistleblower is to be reviled and to be cast out and all is to go back to normal. Exposed and disposed of, by a paper with an agenda of returning FF to power, the party whose leader they backed to the hilt when he was in the tribunals, rubbishing whistleblowers and witnesses, and pleading for understanding for human failings.

Their mission in taking out Ming was to say “ ah sure they’re all the same, FF are not so bad after all”. Their rehab mission on FF is working, as they are now up to 29% in today’s opinion poll. A party who has increased the National Debt to a figure approaching the cost of building 2m houses and handing them out for free, but of course there are no free houses, just enormous mortgages.

NAMA, secrecy, payoffs and pensions, a culture of impunity for the powerful combined with shooting the whistleblowers. We never stood a chance of finding out where the money went and we are left with the 2 ½ parties that run the country this way playing musical chairs in perpetuity.

The media advises against voting in radicals who might try and change things, preferring instead to trust a leaderless disinterested and frustrated public to just do what they’re told by the same actors again and again, and that somehow the great unwashed will have reformed themselves which will somehow reform the body politic by osmosis. They the powerful corrupt and their corrupting media set the agenda, they control the message and their message is things are fine the way they are, so they won’t set a reform agenda that threatens their backer’s interests and the status-quo.

Reform without change is impossible. People are led, by the media, by giants like Dev and Collins, by idealism. This country won’t willingly be reformed by those who benefit from it the way it is. To capture the public’s imagination will require new actors and new players.

I’m not naive enough to think that SF/Others would be radically different, but they are different, they’re a threat to the hegemony of the established parties and they’re quite brave about how they vote in Parliaments. Taking on the conservative block on abortion both north and south, while the cute-hoors prevaricate and wring their hands.

They are useful and expendable and crucially they are diluting the power of conservatism and cronyism in the South. To achieve their goal of reunification, they have to do more than get re-elected, they have to produce a country fit for reunification, something that requires the radical reform that the 2 1/2 parties and the Irish establishment and their media don’t want at all.

Shaadi  17.3.2013

Last Week in Europe… Some Deaths, A Song, and A Broken Promise to Ireland
March 4, 2013

In Greece,  (via Ephilant on Politicalworld.org)

Out of sheer desperation and in order to try and warm their house a little and cook a warm meal, 5 students in Patras made this make-shift heating device and put it in their living room.


It consists of an old rusted barrel, cut in two, and used as a make-shift barbecue by people in their gardens.

When a friend called to the house and got no answer, knowing the women were inside, the friend called over the land lord and they used the spare key to gain access.

Two of the female students were found dead inside the house, two are in a coma in Patras university hospital, and one is conscious but critical in the same hospital. Carbon monoxide poisening. They didn’t even have the money to burn clean fuel in the drum, but burned rubbish found on the streets…

Why does something like this happen in 2013? It’s one of the little inconvenient side effects of bailing out international lenders and banks. Austerity in all its glory. The students, aged between 21 and 23 had no money to buy fuel, they could not pay their electricity bill and were reduced to 1 warm meal a week in the university canteen…

In Portugal

Over 200,000 protesters in Lisbon packed the vast imperial Praca do Comercio square, home to the Finance Ministry, and surrounding streets, chanting: “It’s time for the government to go!”. Many carried banners with slogans such as “Austerity kills” and “Screw the troika, power to the people!”, aimed at the so-called troika of lenders from the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.”Grandola” – the signal-song of the 1974 “Carnation revolution” that overthrew the fascist dictatorship of Antonio Salazar after the army rebelled, reverberated through the crowds in Lisbon, which has a population of about 3 million.

In the past weeks, Government Ministers have repeatedly been drowned out by people singing this song.

And at the end of the week, some very bad news for Ireland, via the Telegraph, from an interview of Klaus Regling in Wirtschafts Woche magazine –

…It emerged that the eurozone bail-out fund (ESM) may not be used after all to recapitalise banks, even once the banking super-regulator is in place. Klaus Regling, the fund’s chief, said opposition from the creditor states may kill the idea altogether.

If so, this will breaches a summit accord in June by EU leaders to deploy the ESM directly to break the “vicious circle” between banks and sovereign states.

Klaus Regling “Das Euro-Retter” – Head of the ESM

Failure to implement the deal would be a blow for Ireland and Italy, leaving them shouldering the full burden left from a bank crisis that was partly caused by northern creditors. The International Monetary Fund said it is imperative that the EU upholds the specific pledge made to Ireland in the summit text.

Germany, Austria, Finland, and Holland have all all said they would not let the ESM cover “legacy assets” left from the bubble. They now seem to be resiling from the accord altogether.

Is this another “game changer” ?

C. Flower  4 March 2013

Join our discussion on European politics and economy at Politicalworld.org 

Mogul Denis O’Brien vs Free Speech
February 22, 2013

The problem is not Denis O’Brien or the Daily Mail. The problem here is the right of Irish people to their “good name”, even as they live in notoriety.

The circumstances surrounding the ESAT deal have made Lowry, O’Brien and naturally the tribunal system itself all notorious as they years have gone by. The entire spectacle has become a classic example of sloth, expense, greed and farce since its inception. Most people in Ireland will know Denis O’Brien primarily as “yer man from the tribunal”.

While it is overwhelmingly likely that no laws were broken over the course of the ESAT deal (there are effectively no laws governing such processes), the idea that the process was pure as the driven snow does not hold water with a general public, weary from constant scandal and the lack of consequence for it. People in Ireland disapprove of the type of payments and behaviour on display during the ESAT deal and notoriety and loss of good name for those involved is to be expected — in my opinion it should be welcomed.

Unfortunately, the Irish courts seem to have consistently disagreed with such logic.

I am not clear on what basis the law defines someone’s “good name” or how it should be vindicated. Is it a general property of a person’s reputation, or does it depend on specific matters in which they have engaged? Is Denis O’Brien’s good name tarnished by his facilitating of payments to Micheal Lowry, or does this tarnishing only apply in this context? Has his good name been tarnished at all? Can a good name be tarnished?

If Denis O’Brien and others have a right to have all record of past misdemeanors removed from accounts of his present day activities, then Tribunals truly serve no purpose at all in this country. Their findings of fact are entirely academic if no-one can report them because it would damage someones “good name”, or if there is some kind of “expiry date” on the findings after which they may not be mentioned for the same reason.

There are two clear response to this decision:

1) Firstly, no more tribunals, for any reason.

2) Remove the right to a good name from the Irish constitution, or else heavily qualify it. This right should not trump the freedom of others to publicly disapprove of you.

OMF 22 Feb 2013

One Last Chance for Enda to Provide Justice for the Women Who Were Shut Away in the Laundries
February 17, 2013

I’ve just read the Justice for Magdalene’s redacted submission to the McAleese committee.  It has been released to balance and correct some impressions conveyed by the McAleese report. None of the hundreds of pages of accounts of individual women was quoted by McAleese. I haven’t read McAleese’s report yet, and plan to give it a try today – although at 1,000 pages it will have to be a fast read.

The Press and some politicians and commentators are using the McAleese Report to say that the laundries were “not like the films.” McAleese interviewed 50 women, the rest of the Committee did not meet any. They had no remit to investigate the treatment of the women in the laundries or to make findings on this. The first thing to remember about the McAleese Report is that the brief was to investigate State links with the laundries, not to explore what went on inside them.   All of the Committee members bar McAleese were civil servant representatives of implicated State Departments. McAleese who has close associations with the Church, resigned his position as Senator and left Ireland without making himself available to the press to answer questions on his report.  

The Justice for Magdalene’s earlier reports show the State’s role, and were in part what forced the Government to act. The State was responsible by reason of its neglect of its duties to inspect and to protect citizens from illegal incarceration and brutality. It also paid capitation money in to the laundry system for some women, provided contracts to it, and directly sent women into the laundries, and returned them if they escaped, without investigating if they were held legally. It has taken 10 years of research and campaigning, and a number of women in the meantime have died waiting, with no redress, some in very poor circumstances. One of the women who spoke out last year has lung cancer, and did not expect to see the report come out. Now she is waiting still for an apology and some redress.

Some of the things that stick in my mind from the many accounts in the JFM report and that very much contradict the Enda Kenny/McAleese version of the laundries –

The laundries were locked jails, with barred windows, with no daylight in some cases, little or no access to out of doors. They were cold and often wet. The work was heavy and dangerous. Many women got burns and other injuries.

The girls and women had inadequate diets – porridge for breakfast and supper, a small lunch with little protein, an egg once a year at Easter, occasional pieces of fruit on “special days.” An account mentions that women rooted in bins for nuns leftovers. They were very thin. People talk about fainting from hunger.

Women were not told when or how they would get out, and many never did get out.

Their names were taken off them and a number or penance name given to them.

They were told they were “there for their sins” although some had no idea why they were there at all. Young children as young as 11 were put in the laundries and a lot of them were young women. They were verbally insulted and abused.

Some women were put there because of ill health – lameness, epilepsy, mental disability.

They were not allowed to speak during the long work hours. They worked six days a week in the laundries: after hours they worked making small goods for sale by the nuns, and cleaning.Women were beaten with belts and hit with heavy bunches of keys for “faulty work” and for “cheek” and in some cases severely beaten for running away or for being found in bed with another woman. They were also punished by having their hair cut “to the bone” and by having to kneel and kiss the floor.   Solitary confinement was a punishment. Women were physically forced to work even when ill.    Enda Kenny however told the Dáil that physical abuse was not an issue.

Some girls and women who were resistant of this abuse and bullying or in other ways “difficult” were sent to mental institutions where they were incarcerated and in some cases died, unreleased.

There was an atmosphere of fear: women cried at night in bed. Women had nervous breakdowns and suffered from depression. Some became severely institutionalised. At least one is still living in an institution / care – would have liked her own room, but never had one. Reported problems of not getting dentures and associated weight loss. This seems to be current ?

They were not ever paid.

The young ones got no education. They had no books, newspapers, or radio and didn’t know what was happening in the outside world.

A horror that sticks in my mind – a account of a woman (likely not the only one) who was born in a laundry institution, grew up in it and who died in it.

Another account mentions a woman who sat at one end of the Church at High Park, while her daughter, elsewhere in the institution, sat at the other, without them ever knowing they were living in the same place.

A woman who got out for a day when she was 45 to meet her grown up child had never before tasted coffee, or handled money. She didn’t know her own age, but was told by her children. She died aged 51. (source: from the JFM FB page)

When the women died, there was no death certificate in many cases, and they were put in a mass grave with no name marker and no priest present, no funeral rites.

The State was very much aware of the laundries, was aware of issue of wages and its obligation to inspect and to safeguard basic rights of citizens. It failed catastrophically in relation to the laundries and in fact colluded in stripping women of their rights.

Women were in some cases sent for petty theft (an apple, stolen in an industrial school, is one example), for staying out late, or being rebellious generally.  Some had had children outside marriage.  Others had disabilities. Some had grown up in institutions. If they ran away, Gardai returned them.

The Secretary of Carlow County Council signed an order to incarcerate a married woman in a laundry and send her baby to a babies home, as the child was believed not to be her husband’s. This was in 1956 (As a side note, I know of a case in the 1990s,  in which Gardai in this area turned away a woman who went for help as she was repeatedly beaten at home: they informed the husband they she had complained).

The issue is not to me about who sent women to the laundries. Enda Kenny, McAleese and the press are busy trying to foist the blame for the laundries onto families. This is a particularly toxic and self serving argument. The State has obligations to citizens and residents irrespective of failures of families.

Abuse is an illustration of that.

Some girls /children who had been abused were locked into the laundries. One woman told of how as a young teenager she went to the Gardai and repeatedly asked them to act against her father who was raping her (her mother had died). They refused on a number occasions, but when they did act it was to incarcerate her in a laundry.

Women ended up in the laundries via state schools and institutions, via the courts, via parish priests and families. Families were under enormous social pressure from current “morals” and social stigma enforced by Church and State, and from poverty.  The Laundries were punitive institutions, part of a gulag of social control, that exerted fear and pressure on all girls and women to modify their behaviour and to comply with a rigid, brutal and hierarchical social norm.

The thinking that the State can avoid its responsibilities and push them off onto onto families, no matter how dysfunctional or disadvantaged, still goes on.

This matter will come up before the Dáil again on Tuesday.  Again, Enda Kenny has the opportunity to apologise, and make redress for the appalling acts of omission and commission by our State in relation to the Laundries.  

There will be a lobby/picket of the Dáil from Tuesday 1 p.m. 19.1.2013  until the debate is over.
Anyone who would like to go along would be welcome.   The women and support campaigners who have brought things to this stage and who have refused to be silenced deserve every support.

POST SCRIPT Justice for Magdalenes and supporters will be gathering at the Dail Tuesday 19th February for a candlelit vigil from 5 p.m. Please come, and bring a candle. 🙂 The debate starts on the Magdalene laundries starts at 6 p.m.

C. Flower  17.2.2013

The Trap
February 10, 2013

Adam Curtis – The Trap

http://thetrapdoc.blogspot.ie/

“Yes, Minister” is great, particularly in the Irish context – so simple yet almost always absent from mainstream debate – in that it shows that all decisions are made on the outcome of competing interests.   Like the Sale of Alcohol Bill will be shaped by the clout of the Pubs vs the Supermarkets rather then the ‘right’ or most effective policy.   Simon McGarr & TJ McIntyre talked of similar during the SOPA debate.   People who use the internet caught between the power of record labels and ISPs.   Or, of course, the McAleese Report where the State & Church sought not to make trouble for each other.

Further collusion against those women and the wider rest of us imo.

Dr. FIVE Feb 10th 2013

After the ULA – What’s Next for the Socialist Party and CAHWT ? A View from the Socialist Party
January 27, 2013

 

xxxx

The Socialist Party originally initiated discussions on the establishment of the United Left Alliance (ULA) because it felt that the attacks on working class people being launched by FF/FG/LP/IMF/ECB had the potential to lead to a widespread campaign of opposition to austerity. The potential could have existed for working class people to draw the political conclusions necessary that would lead them to join a left party. The only way of testing this hypothesis was to stick a toe in the water (in the form of the ULA) and see what happened.

The Socialist Party was never remotely interested in in a simple regroupment / coalescing of existing left groups and individuals. History, recent and far-flung, has amply demonstrated that such a regroupment does nothing to advance the cause of the working class and inevitably collapses as individual components and individuals attempt to make some political capital out of the carcass.

The Socialist Party put a significant amount of work, collectively with others but often on an individual basis, organising meetings and attempting to get people involved in the ULA. After good attendances at the initial ULA public meetings – few people joined. The reason for this is simple – working class people simply did not draw the necessary political conclusions that there was a need for them to join and get active in a left party. This is the reality – I wish it were different, but it is not – and all the fancy wishful desires among some people that if this had been done or that had been done (and its all the Socialist Party fault they weren’t) things would be different, is just sheer nonsense. While left organisations can assist working class people in developing a political consciousness – they cannot ram it down people’s throats and make them ‘believers’ (for want of a better word).

‘Bolshevik,’ an ‘unaligned’ ULA member, writing on Politicalworld.org,  has repeatedly stated that there is an inconsistency between the Socialist Party’s attitude to the ULA and its attitude to the CAHWT – There is not. The CAHWT is not a political movement – it is a single issue campaign. It has drawn a new layer of activists into political activity but the vast majority of CAHWT members and the wider public who are boycotting the Household Charge still have not drawn the political conclusions that would lead them to becoming politically active in the ULA.   Opposition to the Household Charge required people not to register and not to pay – it did not require them to actively engage in political activity.

Those activists that did attend demonstrations, protests etc did not draw the necessary political conclusions (at least most of them) that would lead them to joining the ULA – so how could anyone expect those who weren’t active beyond boycotting the charge to join the ULA ? The Socialist Party did correctly identify the CAHWT as the vehicle most likely to be the instrument of opposition to austerity (passive as it is) and were also correct in putting the resources necessary into the campaign to make it as effective as it was.

The Socialist Party has suggested that it is possible – no more than possible – that the upcoming campaign against the property tax and water charges offers the potential – nothing more than that – to develop the political consciousness of working class people so that they draw the necessary conclusions that would lead them to joining a new left party. This campaign will, by necessity, be qualitatively different to the campaign against the Household Charge.

Because of the approach taken by the government the passive resistance nature that was effective in the CAHWT campaign is no longer viable. The upcoming campaign requires significantly greater mobilisation, activism, confrontation with the State etc., if it is to have a possibility of success. It will require large numbers of people who to this point have been passive participants to become active in the campaign. It opens up the possibility of the development of a generalised campaign against austerity, the possibility of running anti-austerity election candidates (and that is just one part of the campaign) and the possibility that through active struggle a section of the working class will draw the necessary political conclusions that they need to move into political activity by joining and building a new left party. This may or may not be successful – but the Socialist Party will strive to create the best possible opportunity for it to happen.

A key factor in the current situation is the lack of struggle in the trade unions. The union leadership have managed to portray the shambolic Croke Park Agreement as a victory for trade unionists – ably abetted by the establishment, the media, right-wing economic commentators etc. In practically every public sector workplace the right-wing elements have managed to suppress opposition to Croke Park on the grounds that the cuts would be far worse without it and we couldn’t win anyway because public opinion is anti-public sector. What happens with Croke Park 2 we will have to wait and see – but without industrial struggle an added barrier to political consciousness exists. Similarly in the private sector – when struggle has emerged it has been around job losses, but instead of fighting to maintain jobs, workers have struggled for better redundancy payments. An added safety valve is mass emigration which is now at the levels of post-famine Ireland.

Large numbers of people on the Left grossly underestimate the importance of class consciousness / political consciousness. Without drawing political conclusions on a class basis, it is impossible for working class people to engage in political activity on a socialist basis. I have been a member of the Socialist Party and its forerunner for more than 30 years – there are only a handful of Socialist Party members who have been involved with the organisation longer than I have (and unfortunately for personal reasons I am not remotely as politically active as I want to be). What is the point of my reminiscing ?  Despite the fact that consciousness had started to develop to a small degree, political / class consciousness is significantly lower (and I mean significantly) that it was in the late 1970s / early 1980s. There were major industrial battles during this period (post office strike, tax marches, Ranks flour mills and Clondalkin paper mills) etc. Workers losing their jobs occupied not for better redundancy but demanded nationalisation to save their jobs – dozens of workplace occupations occurred in a four/five year period. These industrial battles educated and politicised an entire layer of working class activists (including many of the present day ‘non-aligned’ elements in the ULA). The Militant Tendency trebled in size in two years as small numbers drew revolutionary conclusions. The level of consciousness was significantly higher than the present day and was drawn out primarily by the major industrial battles of the period (period that saw Lynch being dumped as Taoiseach and three general elections in the space of 20 months).

That is the difference – people continue to grossly underestimate how far working class consciousness has been thrown back by the collapse of Stalinism (and the consequential gallop to the right by Stalinist trade union activists) plus the major and ongoing ideological offensive by the bourgeois classes against socialist ideology.   The only thing that will break that trend and reverse the low level of consciousness is a reemergence of class struggle on a significant scale and involving large numbers of working class activists.   Greece has entered this phase – Ireland at this point most definitely has not. The campaign against the property tax and water charges may prove to be the catalyst – or it may not – time will tell.

Last point – the Socialist Party has and will continue to be criticised for its statement yesterday. The Socialist Party made its decision because it saw the reality of the situation – the ULA no longer has a role to play in developing working class consciousness (for a variety of reasons but primarily because the working class didn’t join). The Socialist Party has been open and honest in its assessment (whether you agree with it or not) and has put its cards on the table. The Socialist Party will continue to work at building opposition to austerity and to attempt to assist working class activists to draw the necessary political conclusions that will lead to the building of a left wing political movement.

Jolly Red Giant   27 Jan 2013

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Senator McAleese: Will You Play Forfeits? Reconciliation with the Women of Magdalene Laundries
January 22, 2013

Does anyone doubt that the Magdalene Laundries existed? Does anyone really believe the Irish Government in its uneasily shifting stance that ‘officially’ the Irish State knew nothing of these ‘private’ institutions?

At the very least there is a false note here and this was pointed out by the UNCAT Committee on Torture where official Ireland found itself over a year ago arguing that Ireland knew nothing of the Magdalene Laundries ‘officially’.

The UNCAT Committee rather embarrassingly for the Irish Government pointed out that it was not enough for a member nation to simply plead ignorance – that under UN Membership Ireland officially was obliged to ensure that such institutions were inspected and under a governance system.

If the Irish State’s position is that it didn’t understand the rules of its UN membership on the subject of ill-treatment, abuse and internment of citizens then it merely means Ireland admits a studied negligence of its own tortured citizens in these institutions.

The Irish State has an overt habit of this practice and while the UNCAT Committee did not accept the State’s point it is very unlikely also that the State can convince us either given how close we are to the State’s record in such matters.

Ireland, socially, is a recidivist. If there were an institution possible for entire states where such societies could be described as ‘fallen’ or at serious risk of being ‘fallen’ with regard to humanity and ethics then the lady in green would be institution bound.

Something of an irony that a lady inclined in all respects and in constant practice towards the refusal to examine her dirty laundry at the same time might be chained philosophically to an institutional washing board and scrubbing, overseen, at a stain on its character that simply won’t come out.

Sometimes the child is wiser than the parent. And what parent could be displeased with a child that announces it is better to tell the truth than persist in lying? And that, on this subject, is where we are as we await the Government’s response to the dental detective Martin McAleese’s report into the Magdalene Laundry issue.

There is apprehension that official Ireland will persist, rather excruciatingly, with its notion that ‘officially’ Ireland knew nothing.

Justice delayed. In fact if McAleese’s report which undoubtedly will be obsequious in its ‘sensitivity’ to the Magdalenes serves only to cling to an evasive manoeuver by the State then it is not just a failure to attend to acknowledging serious wrong but the conclusion will be that the State wishes to persist in another known evil in Ireland – the ‘delay till they die’ process –  which has in the past served the same cult behind the profitability of these washday gulags. The State wishes to portray the Magdalene Laundries as ‘different’ to issues of up to sixty residential “Reformatory and Industrial Schools” operated by Catholic Church orders, funded and supervised by the Irish Department of Education.

To allege that the Irish State which paid capitation (head money) to the orders behind those institutions was unable to ‘see’ a similar system with the Magdalene Laundries attached to them, while elements of the state were ‘remanding’ women to the Laundries is simply insufferable dishonesty of the worst sort.

We will know shortly whether the Irish State wishes to persist in its adopted ignorance – a profitable stance in fear of redress payments and perhaps a wish to avoid a situation where the government will be buried in outrage should it attempt to pay ‘redress’ on behalf of orders which have already welched to the sum of   euros where other institutions are concerned. I may be wrong in my suspicions around McAleese’s report- understandable when the words ‘construct a narrative’ were used in discussions around the remit of his Committee on this issue.

We do a lot of ‘narrative constructing’ in Ireland. One of these days we may decide to restrict ourselves to reporting on what actually happened and who was involved. But that requires a maturity that may not yet be available to our childish state and immature official institutions.

Quite apart from the debt Irish society owes those of the Magdalene Laundries and other religious gulags we could at least show these people that we do care about what happened to them.

They could be forgiven for thinking that any signal now is irrelevant but we have an opportunity while many are still living to at least acknowledge properly the social disgrace of the state and Irish society for allowing this to happen.

It must be said. It may not do much practical good but that part of the national conversation must happen for the dignity of those who had their dignity taken from them in such a horrible manner and for a reconciliation process to begin.

I used the word ‘reconciliation’ because otherwise how can the victims feel vindicated as citizens of this somewhat shabby Republic and how can citizens who weren’t victims look each other in the eye?

Captain Con O’Sullivan    21.01.13

*From the poem ‘Geasa’ (The Bond) by Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill

A report by an interdepartmental committee chaired by Senator Martin McAleese is with the Government: a Government statement is expected within the next two weeks.

Join our discussion on the Magdalene Laundry workers on Politicalworld.org.

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