The US led attack on Libya is not about ‘protecting civilians’ but is a strategic move designed to choke the Arab revolutions.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been discredited and so the Western powers have re-furbished their previous rhetoric about ‘humanitarian intervention’. But their hypocrisy and fear of Arab people are there for all to see.
On the very day that the UN Security Council passed a resolution sanctioning military action, 52 people were shot dead in Sana, the capital of Yemen, by forces loyal to the dictatorial regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. But there were no calls for ‘no fly zones’ because Saleh is a key US ally in the region. Yemen received $67 million in aid in 2010 from the US and it was mainly directed to elite army units.
The US led intervention in Libya was given political cover by a number of Arab states. The fig leaf was provided by the Gulf States, such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirate, while Saudi Arabia provided the financial back up. Yet these regimes are involved in the bloody suppression of the Bahraini people, beating and killing pro-democracy protestors.
There was no Western condemnation of the Saudi invasion of Bahrain – and certainly no calls for sanctions or no-fly zones. Instead, the absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia is welcomed into the ‘coalition of the wiling’ who will liberate Libya.
For understandable reasons, the desperate people of Benghazi called for Western action as they were pounded by a superior military firepower of the Gaddafi regime. That weaponry came from Western governments who supplied Gaddafi with all he wanted after he joined their war on terror. The Italian government, for example, sold €111 million of weapons, including ‘material for bombs, torpedoes, rockets and missiles’.
Those same Western governments who now claim to help the Libyan pro-democracy movement had refused to recognise the Transitional National Council in Benghazi or to send them the Libyan funds frozen in the Western banking system. They dismissed all pleas to supply the revolutionary movement in Benghazi with weapons to defend themselves because they did not regard them as reliable Western allies.
Instead like cold-blooded manipulators, they used their pleas as a pretext to intervene to shift the whole dynamic of the Arab revolutions.
Consider only the motives of the main public advocate of intervention, Nicholas Sarkozy. This showman was made an honorary citizen of Tunisia in 2008 and, in return, praised the dictator, Ben Ali, for expanding liberties. His culture Minister, Frederic Mitterand denounced attacks on Ben Ali, stating that ‘To say that Tunisia is a one man dictatorship seems to be quite exaggerated.’ Three days before the dictator fell, the French foreign minister, Michele Alliot Marie, proposed to dispatch French forces to shore up Ben Ali!
Or look at the track record of Sarkozy’s sidekick, David Cameron, the British Prime Minister. Just a month ago, he toured other Gulf States with a 36 strong team of arms manufacturers to sell fighter jets, submarine guns, electric batons and teargas to the despots who rule over those states.
Or the odious Silvio Berlusconi who once claimed that Gaddafi was ‘my best friend.’
Clearly, these thugs do not have the interests of the Libyan people at heart. Their real aim is to choke off the revolutionary wave that is sweeping through the Arab world and threatening to overthrow despots who have been their allies. They will not promote democracy but will curtail and suppress the popular will.

THE NEW COLONIAL ADVENTURE

The Western intervention in Libya will bring death and destruction to many civilians. Even the intelligence website Stratfor admitted that, ‘It is a paradox of warfare instigated to end human suffering that the means of achieving this can sometimes impose substantial human suffering itself.’
A ‘no fly zone’ is a term invented by the Pentagon to hide the reality of bombardment. Almost always it is followed by an escalation of military action. In 1991, for example, a no fly zone was imposed on Iraq but this was followed by a sequence of events that led to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. By the time this ‘humanitarian intervention’ was finished, nearly one million Iraqis were dead.
Once they have their foot in the door, the Western powers will seek escalation. Their strategic aims are three fold:
They want to ensure control of Libya’s oil supplies and will promote a de facto partition of the country to gain this. The Gaddafi dictatorship clung onto power by fostering division between Libyan tribes and regions. He systematically discriminated against the eastern Cyrenaica region and the Western powers hopes to use this fault line to establish their hegemony there.
By presenting themselves as supporters of the pro-democracy movement in Libya, the Western leaders hope to re-furbish their image with the Arab population. By appearing to come to the aid of Benghazi, they think that their support for Ben Ali and Mubarak will fade into a distant memory.
By gaining a foothold in Libya, the Western leaders hope to change the dynamic of the Arab revolutions. Instead of liberation coming from the mass of people themselves, they hope to gain some leverage to influence its direction and channel the revolt back into the arms of their newly emerging B Team.
In this regard, the Western invasion of Libya must be seen as a parallel strategy with the Saudi invasion of Bahrain. Both these military incursions represent the two faces of the counter-revolution, aimed both to crush the movement on the street and to co-opt a new political sub-elite into shoring up state structures.
Specifically, the Western leaders hoped to curb Islamist influences in Benghazi and foster the emergence of a pro-Western hegemony among the opposition.
In Egypt, their aim is to encourage a coalition between moderate elements of the Muslim Brotherhood and Mubarak’s old party, the NPD, to block the revolutionary process being promoted by younger pro-democracy activists and leftists. Their eventual aim is to promote a political movement that is similar to the Turkish AKP party which is pro-Islamic and pro-US.
In Yemen and Bahrain, the Saudi inspired repression is designed to force through an acceptance of cosmetic changes to the state structures.

IMPERIALISM’S WEAKNESS

But even if these are the strategic goals that lie behind this bloody imperial adventure, there is little likelihood that they will be achieved.
The US is severely weakened by a ballooning debt crisis and is staring at defeat in Afghanistan and Iraq. It has learnt from bitter experience that it is one thing to slaughter and destroy the armies of weak dictators but it is quite another to hold the country that has been vanquished. Desperate efforts to foment division and sectarian strife in Iraq was only partially successful as the US has had to watch the creation of a regime with an ambiguous relationship to Iran.
This weakness was more than evident in the hesitation and splits in the top echelons of the US state about the wisdom of embarking on the Libyan adventure.
But even aside from the experience of defeat in long drawn out wars, the US and its allies face an even greater problem.
The dynamic of the Arab revolutions extends well beyond democratic demands to seeking real social change. The impetus for the Tunisian revolution began with the death of Mohamed Bouazizi who set himself on fire as a protest against unemployment. The motor force of the revolution has come from a fierce anger against food inflation and lack of jobs. The political cry for democratic rights is fusing with a demand to alleviate the economic conditions of the mass of people who suffer under an imperial order that robs their resources and the deprivations imposed by neo-liberal capitalism.
The small scattered placards that appeared in Tahrir Square to proclaim ‘Wisconsin: Egypt supports you’ show the connections that are consciously made throughout the world. Revolutions move forward by leaps and bounds and can shake the powerful in every region of the world.
On the same day that the US commenced it’s bombing of Libya, tens of thousands returned to the streets of Saana in Yemen to demand the removal of the regime. Like in Egypt, the people had overcome their fear of the regime’s thugs and were determined to drive out the pro-US dictator. It was an omen that even as the counter-revolution struck an equal and opposite reaction could come from the streets.
Which force shall prevail is yet to be settled.

THE TASKS OF SOCIALISTS IN IRELAND

‘We are a privileged people – getting a visit from the Queen and the US President in May’. So said Enda Kenny.
This grovelling embrace of empire sticks in the throats of tens of thousands of working people and socialists should give expression to it. All the more so as the leftist rhetoric of Sinn Fein has already begun to fade as they proclaim ‘Cead Mile Failte’ to the arrival of Obama and advise against protests over the Queen’s visit.
Socialists should stand in total solidarity with the Arab revolutions. We are for the overthrow of every dictator. We are one hundred per cent with uprisings and want to see the downfall of all dictators who stymied the development of their countries.
We oppose all Western intervention in the region and our first duty as socialists is to put the anti-war movement back onto the streets. We do not just want words of condemnation but want to build a real protest movement. That movement may start small but it will grow as the reality of the imperialist war comes home…

Advertisements

Denis O Brien became a very rich man because he used his connections with Fine Gael to get access to state resources. In a devastating report, the Moriarty Tribunal has shown that Fine Gael operates exactly the same as Fianna Fail when it comes to favouring its big business ‘donors’.

Look at the facts:

* Between March 1995 and June 1996, O Brien or his companies supported 14 Fine Gael Fund raising events.

*He or his companies donated £22,140 to Fine Gael at this time.

* His mobile phone company, Esat, working with its Norwegian partner, Telenor, gave a further $50,000 to Fine Gael. The party never informed the Moriarty Tribunal of this donation and the judge noted that it was made with ‘false and misleading documentation’. It was also given in a manner that was ‘secretive, utterly lacking in transparency and designed to conceal that fact of such payment’.

In 1995, Irish state could have awarded its mobile phone licence to Telecom Eireann, the state owned phone company. Had it done so, Telecom would have expanded, prospered and paid vast revenues to Irish society. Instead, the company was weakened and sold off to a series of vulture capitalists who asset stripped it and refused to invest in its infrastructure. Today, Ireland has poor broadband coverage as a direct result to sabotage of this state company.

Instead the mobile phone licence was awarded to Denis O Brien who eventually sold it on to British Telecom for €2.4 billion. He made a personal profit of €300 million from this transaction. Yet instead of showing any gratitude to a country that impoverished itself in order to enrich him, he declared himself a tax exile. He claimed to be a resident of Portugal – in order to avoid paying capital gains tax.

The real significance of the Moriarty report could be lost amidst a ferocious media assault to discredit it. Summaries tend to focus on the individual Michael Lowry rather the party which gave him such power- Fine Gael.

Yet Lowry was the chairman of the trustees of Fine Gael and an account holder on behalf of the party. He worked with Phil Hogan – Enda Kenny’s current enforcer – in clearing off the party’s debt in record time. Hogan was on the organising committee of a golf classic in the K Club where O Brien made a €5,000 donation.

Another figure who used his connections to Fine Gael was Ben Dunne. In the nineties Dunne made covert donations to Lowry (and before him Haughey). In 1995, he telephoned Lowry and the latter then sought to deploy his influence with Mark Fitzgerald, a fellow Fine Gael trustee, to get a rent review on a building Dunne owned. Dunne’s building was Marlborough House and Telecom Eireann was renting offices there. In other words, Lowry sought to increase the flow of funds from a company that he was responsible for as a Minister in order to benefit his financial benefactor.

Two key elements emerge from the Moriarty report.

The richest Irish capitalists periodically turn to the state to get extra resources to make profit. O Brien is no different than many others who have donated to politicians and who, by an apparent co-incidence, benefit from the state’s largesse. Sometimes this largesse takes the form of special tax breaks; at other times it is linked to property deals and state rental income; on other occasions, it comes from the privatisation of state assets.

Despite the endlessly repeated mantra that ‘entrepreneurs create jobs- not the state’, the truth is that Irish capitalists try to milk the state to enrich themselves. Despite their cries about ‘market competition’, they are as addicted to state support as addicts are to their fix.

Newstalk and the Independent Group of Newspapers – who are owned by Denis O Brien – run regular campaigns against a ‘bloated’ public sector which is stifling private enterprise.

But Moriarty confirms again that Irish capitalism is dependent on state handouts. The corporate elite are weak compared to their global rivals and so demand that the state must bend to their requests for help. The flow of money to the political elite helps to lubricate the process but the end result is always the same: Irish society loses out as it lifts its local gombeen men into the status of global entrepreneurs.

Second, Moriarty demonstrates that there is nothing clean or transparent about Fine Gael. It operates the exact same strategy of running ‘golf classics’ to hide corporate donations as Fianna Fail. It also tries to hide and conceal how it doles out favours to its business backers.

Today Fine Gael has far outstripped Fianna Fail as the recipient of corporate donations. We have just been given a reminder of what they expect in return.

It is time to get organised to put an end to this charade.

The Left Arrives

Posted: March 5, 2011 in Welcome

Exit polls showed that the overwhelming motive behind voting in the General Election was anger. Less attention was paid to the detail of the rightwing policies of Fine Gael.

The former Fine Gael Minister, Ivan Yates, claimed that ‘Voters signed up for years of harsh medicine’. But nothing could be further from the truth – the last party that talked of ‘harsh medicine’ was decimated.

The scale of Fianna Fail’s defeat is of epic proportions. They scored fewer votes than the old Irish Parliamentary party in the 1918 elections. Their defeat is similar to the wipe-out of parties like the Canadian conservatives or the Italian Christian Democrats. Only the PR electoral system masked their total decline.

Irish politics is witnessing a new polarisation. Fine Gael’s vote increased by 14% and business interests backed them overwhelmingly. They had the wealthiest war chest and admitted to receiving €2.25 million in donations, mainly through corporate sponsored golf matches.

The business elite yearned for a single party government that could ‘sort out’ the population. The Independent Group of newspapers, owned by the two tax exile millionaires, O’Reilly and O’Brien, were to the fore in trying to create a bandwagon effect for this openly Thatcherite option.

But while a section of the upper middle class backed FG’s right wing policies with enthusiasm, the majority of their voters heard a message about ‘change’. They either used Fine Gael as a vehicle to get rid of Fianna Fail or were attracted to ambiguous rhetoric about ending the ‘two tier health system’ or ‘reviewing’ the Universal Social Charge.

The reality is that Fine Gael does not have the same deep roots in Irish society as FF and so a volatile electorate will soon turn against them.

The election also saw a major shift to the left in Irish society. A new left wing force, the United Left Alliance, now has more TDs than Fianna Fail in the capital, Dublin. A decision by Sinn Fein to tack left over the past year also led to big gains, mainly outside Dublin. And even the increase in Labour votes reflected a class suspicion of the Thatcherites in Fine Gael.

In all, more voters switched to Labour, Sinn Fein, ULA and left independents than Fine Gael. But you would not know that from a corporate media that is desperately trying to present Enda Kenny as the saviour of the nation.

A NEW GOVERNMENT OF THE BOSSES

‘It is like a game of Munster and Leinster. After it is over, you put on the green jersey’. This is how Eamon Gilmore described how Labour and Fine Gael could transcend differences and form a new coalition government. He should remember that the last people to talk of ‘wearing the green jersey’ were Brian Lenehan and Seanie Fitzpatrick!.

Both the FG and Labour parties’ leaders see politics as a game where election promises are buried after the match. They want to come together to form a ‘strong’ government that carries through the assaults necessary to save Irish capitalism.

Fine Gael’s extreme right winger, Leo Varadkar, gave the game away when he suggested that in times of crisis, the ‘centre right’ and ‘centre left’ must join together so that they are not pressurised by strikes, demonstrations or populist pressure. ‘Strong, stable government’ is only a code for resisting democratic pressures.

In the next few weeks, the new Labour-FG government will pay over at least €7 billion more to the banks. After that they are facing even further demands for ‘re-capitalisation’ that could amount to €15 billion.

On March 11th, they will go to the EU summit having told that Irish people that their softly, softly approach to negotiation will yield concessions. But they will get virtually nothing apart from a few symbolic gestures or a minor cut in interest rates. The population will still be lumbered with a massive sovereign debt to shore up the stability for the European banking system.

Once these moves are out of way, the stage is set for an all-out war on working class living standards. Labour has said it has no ‘red line’ issues so it will make concession after concession on water charges, university fees, privatisation or public sector ‘reform’.

The hope of many workers that Labour will therefore ‘soften’ Fine Gael will, therefore, quickly melt away.

Labour, of course, could refuse the poisoned chalice of coalition – as a small number of its left wing members are advocating. It could join the opposition and allow a government composed of Fine Gael and rightwing independents to self-destruct in a short time. Or even force FG and FF together to bring about a real alignment of Irish politics.

But its leadership are totally plugged into the political and corporate establishment and will jump at the slightest opportunity of exercising power.

Once trapped in coalition, Labour will follow the way of the Greens and end up as apologists for the right.

THE LEFT ARRIVES

The United Left Alliance is the new left wing force in Irish politics. It has five TDs, one MEP and nearly twenty local representatives. Only once before in the 1980s did a similar force emerge.

But the ULA comes from a very different tradition to the old Workers Party, who emerged during the recession of that decade.

It opposes any involvement with, or support for, right wing parties. It promotes the self-mobilisation of workers as the key to change rather than simply parliamentary manoeuvres. It does not support foreign dictators who claimed to lead a socialist homeland. The ULA is a principled left that grows out of workers’ struggles rather than being an add-on to the republican tradition.

But, crucially, the context is very different. The scale of the crisis facing Irish capitalism is far deeper and the country has become one of the weak links in the chain of global capitalism.

Provided it remains a party of struggle, the ULA could expand dramatically. Its growth will, however, require a new ideological struggle to match its huge electoral effort.

It will have to convince large number of workers to break from union leaders who have systematically cultivated a mood of defeatism. The last minute support for Labour to participate in a ‘balanced’ government grew out of the experience of two years where workers have retreated before the employers’ offensive. The main reason for that retreat has been the sabotage of struggle by union leaders who urged acceptance of pay cuts and endorsed a ‘more for less’ philosophy for workers in the public sector. The ULA will have to fight hard to reverse this mood of defeatism.

Left parliamentary activity cannot substitute for the weakness and fear that workers experience. It can only assist the awakening of a new mood to resist. A major strategic goal of the ULA must, therefore, be to build a base in workers’ organisations and win manual and white-collar workers who reluctantly voted Labour in the desperate hope that they could soften Fine Gael.

Second, the ULA will have to relate to those workers who voted Sinn Fein to show that while this party uses left rhetoric – it will not break from capitalism. In the past, Sinn Fein looked like the only real opposition to the political establishment. But across the border they have joined with the DUP in implementing savage cuts in living standards. The long-term goal of Gerry Adams is to enter government with a right wing party in the South – ideally, before the historic anniversary on 2016.

The ULA can welcome many who support Sinn Fein into struggle – but it must seek to expose – in a consistent and fraternal manner – the weakness that hides behind a left republican rhetoric.

All of this means that the ULA has a huge responsibility. It should engage in a process of open debate and discussion to lay the basis for a new left wing party. That party should be a multi-tendency party where the Socialist Workers work alongside the Socialist Party, the Workers Unemployed Action Group, and independent socialists to build a genuine party of the left – while giving each other the freedom to debate and discuss their differences.

But above all it should open itself out to the many new activists whose hopes have been raised by the Irish left coming of age.

Day School on the Arab Revolutions

Posted: February 28, 2011 in Welcome

Irish Anti War Movement
Revolutions in Egypt
and the Arab World
Special Day school – speakers will include:

Wassim Wagdy, well known Egyptian activist

Anne Alexander, writer on Egypt and the Middle East

and speakers from Libya

At the time of writing the outcome of the uprising in Libya is not know, nor what may happen in Yemen, Bahrain and so on, but it is clear that events of historic importance have taken place and are continuing. The Irish Anti-War Movement is therefore holding this special day school with invited expert speakers. Both Wassim Wagdy and Anne Alexander are able to offer eye witness accounts from Tahrir Square as well analysis based on long standing engagement with the region. Other speakers will be invited.
Session 1: The Egyptian Revolution
Session 2: Developments in Libya and the region
The first session will focus on the remarkable events that led to the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. The second session is left open so as allow for discussion of the struggles that are developing by the day, including their implications for Western foreign policy and the situation in Palestine.
SATURDAY 12 MARCH 3PM – 7PM

CASSIDY’S HOTEL

CAVENDISH ROW, UPPER O’CONNELL ST

For information contact: Jim Roche 0876472737 , Marnie Holborow 087988244

The Fight Goes On

Posted: February 27, 2011 in Welcome

I finished up being eliminated yesterday on 778 votes, 741 first preferences. I think that wasn’t too bad when you take into account that I didn’t have that high a profile, and the surge to Mick Wallace, when he entered the race.

Over the next week, I will be sitting down with the different groups of People Before Profit/ULA supporters around the county, and we will plan ahead for the coming months.

I would like to say a massive ‘thank you’ to everyone who was involved in the campaign, those who canvassed so hard for me, those who leafleted, those who did the behind the scenes planning and those who stood by me and had the faith in me to give me their vote.

Yesterday was a great day for the United Left Alliance, we have now FIVE voices in the Dail, Joe, Joan, Seamus, Clare, and Richard (who will be elected later today after the re-count). We can build on these successes, right around the country, and we can build here in Wexford also.

The new Government will continue with the austerity measures, they will cut social welfare, they will reduce wages, they will reduce services. They will further devastate the lives of ordinary people to continue they bail out of the banks.

Join the fight back here in Wexford, join us in People Before Profit.

Keep an eye out for the meetings coming up in your area.

Policy on Natural Resources

Posted: February 13, 2011 in Welcome

Irish gas and oil

Ireland has astounding wealth in natural resources and this could be the key to its economic regeneration. Current estimates of the size of Irish gas and oil resources can be derived from a range of sources. These include details released by individual companies, such as Providence’s disclosure of 870 million barrels of oil off the Dublin coast and Finavera’s reporting of a potential 9.4 trillion cubic feet of gas (1.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent (bboe) in the onshore Lough Allen gas field.
The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) has been tight-lipped on the overall value of Irish hydrocarbons. However, a 2010 press release announcing the opening of the Atlantic Margin Licensing Round provides some clues to the possible value of Ireland’s resources. This press release declared that there were potential reserves of 10 billion bboe (gas or oil) in the Atlantic Margin, West of Ireland.
The value of such resources clearly depends on both the costs of recovering them and the amount which can be commercially recovered. But at current market prices of around €72 a barrel, the value is around €720 billion.
This potential wealth only relates to the West Coast and provides no insights into the wealth gained from commercial production in Kinsale, Ballycotton and Sevenheads, or the probable riches contained onshore and off Ireland’s East Coast.
It is therefore a conservative estimate.

An answer to Ireland’s economic crisis?

This potential wealth provides a means to solve Ireland’s long term economic problems. But this would require a fundamental change in policy.
Under the current licensing system, Ireland sees little benefit from its own resources. A report by Indecon Economic Consultants, which was sponsored by the Department of Communications, Energy and Resources, pointed out that the ‘current fiscal system…yields among the lowest government take in the world.’
Aside from some nominal fees, the only mechanisms for financial returns from Ireland’s gas and oil is a 25% tax rate under the 1992 Licensing Terms and an additional 5 to 15% tax which might be paid through the Profit Resource Rent Tax (PRRT) which was introduced under the 2007 Licensing terms. This latter additional tax only applies to licences granted after January 1, 2007.
However, companies can offset exploration and development costs over the previous 25 years against both these taxes. The PRRT is also only be applicable to highly profitable fields as it is calculated on a graded basis using a profit ratio of after-tax profits divided by the level of capital investment.

Ireland compared with other countries

A 2007 report by the US Government Accountability Office showed that Ireland had the second lowest rate of government take among 142 fiscal systems. Of the fiscal systems studied, 108 had government take of 50% or over – twice the rate in Ireland.
Another international study in 2008 examined 45 fiscal systems with Ireland having the lowest rate of government take – half the rate of countries with a similar economic approach such as the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
Our close neighbour Norway, with its comparable socio-economic transition from an agricultural to industrialised country, receives a government take that is over three times the Irish rate. This is because it imposes a 78% tax rate. The Norwegian state also participates directly in exploration and production through its 67% share in the major oil company Statoil and its ‘State Direct Financial Interest’ (SFDI). Managed by the state owned company Petero, the SDFI means the state retains a direct financial interest in production with the amount of State participation decided upon the awarding of licences. Once the State’s level of participation has been agreed, which differs between fields, the state behaves like other oil companies meeting its share of costs and receiving the equivalent share of profits.
In 2009, 27% of the Norwegian state’s total revenues came from the petroleum sector. Such revenue is allocated to a Government Pension Fund. The value of this sovereign wealth stood at €332.64 billion in 2009. The Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy forecast the state’s 2010 net cash flow from the petroleum sector to be nearly €33 billion.
The 2008 international study of 45 fiscal systems also showed that, aside from Ireland, only 6 fiscal systems resulted in government take of less than 50% with 22 fiscal systems resulting in government take of 70% or higher.
Countries such as Venezuela, Iran and Libya received a government take in excess of 90%. This report also showed how many countries are taking stronger economic control over their resources. The rates of government take increased in 16 fiscal systems, including countries such as the US, UK, China and Argentina.
However, rates of government take are only one way a state can benefit from its resources and many countries are re-asserting control over their resources in other ways. In 2010, for example, the Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa introduced a new oil law which saw the state seize control of all the country’s oil resources. International oil companies were told they would be compensated for their investments and production. Correa threatened to expropriate the assets of foreign companies which did not agree to the new contracts, informing them that “companies need to understand they should be governed by the rules of the game the country puts in place.”
This global pattern shows why an urgent change of policy is required in Ireland.

Energy security

Defenders of the current approach suggest that Ireland must provide “simple and extremely attractive” terms in order to attract companies to develop its resources. They also assert that Ireland is vulnerable on energy security because we import all of our oil and most of the gas.
In 2009 Ireland consumed the equivalent of 8 million tonnes of oil and over half this amount in natural gas (4.3 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe)). Renewable energy sources met 3.9% of Ireland’s total energy consumption and 11.9% of the share of electricity generated.
However companies are not obliged to sell Irish gas and oil back to the country under the current terms. If they decide to sell to Ireland, which they may do as transportation costs will be cheaper, they can do so at full market prices.
This means that in addition to receiving one of the lowest rates of the returns in the world, the Irish state is not even guaranteed a supply of its own gas. Instead it must pay full market prices and compete with others for supply.

Steps to ensure Irish gas and oil benefits the country:

Take all oil and gas resources back into public ownership. People Before Profit –United Left Alliance will nullify all existing agreements with oil companies and place a moratorium on all licensing rounds until the new model of state management has been introduced.

Introduce a new model of state hydrocarbon management. This will be premised upon (a) public ownership of resources, (b) stronger state participation through production sharing and service contracts, and a new national oil company, and (c) higher rates of financial returns through increased rates of corporate tax and royalties.

The state will retain ownership of Irish gas and oil and will engage with oil companies through production sharing contracts or service agreements where this is necessary to access technical expertise. Alongside the state maintaining control over Irish gas and oil, such contractual arrangements will see the state having a direct financial interest in all production.
The new Irish National Oil Company (INOC), run through a participatory management structure, will be a key component of this new approach and other oil companies will be required to co-produce with the INOC until it has developed the necessary expertise and financial capabilities to produce independently.
The new fiscal system will include higher rates of taxation and royalties. These revenues, alongside profits from the INOC will be used to fund public services including education, health, childcare, community services, and social welfare.
Public ownership will therefore guarantee of supply and provide greater financial benefits for the overall economy.
Develop and fund an integrated industrial development strategy comprising upstream and downstream activities. Public ownership of our natural resources will become the corner stone of a new development strategy that will replace a reliance on foreign multi-nationals.

Such a strategy could include:
Training and upskilling workers for the range of exploration, development, production, refining and transportation activities and ancillary services.
Related research and development programmes
Supporting new and existing service industries.
Development of a new state run refinery with refined petroleum products used for: transportation fuels, fuels for heating, fuels for power generation, feedstock for chemicals and plastics, and components for lubricants.

The provision of such products will also be of benefit to other industries situated in Ireland, particularly petrochemical, pharmaceutical and energy.
Use funds and infrastructure from oil and gas activities to diversify Ireland’s energy supply, People Before Profit-United Left Alliance favours developing and moving towards more sustainable forms of energy production which would have additional industrial, economic and environmental benefits.

Such benefits include increased employment, reduced carbon dioxide emissions and increased energy security.
Ireland has a wide range of renewable energy sources including wind, wave and tidal sources, solar and geothermal energy which could be utilised productively.
The wealth generated from public ownership of natural resources will make this diversification possible.
Respond to the Corrib gas controversy in a transparent, fair, participative manner based on real engagement with the community in Erris, Co. Mayo around the location of the Corrib gas project.

Production of Corrib gas should only be permitted when there is community consent on the location of the refinery and pipeline.

People Before Profit Health Care Policy

Posted: February 12, 2011 in Welcome

At the beginning of 2011 overcrowding in A&E and hikes in VHI again showed the long-term problems of capacity and funding in the Irish health service. Government policy since the 2001 ‘Health Strategy’ was to increase hospital beds by 3000 to bring up the total to 15,000 beds. Harney tried to pretend private ‘collocated’ beds would do instead but even these were never built. Instead the INMO now estimates 1,700 more acute beds in public hospitals have been closed since 2008.

Market madness has seen VHI increase their subscriptions by almost half. Fear of long waiting lists and unequal access to consultant specialists has pushed half the population to take out private Health Insurance. The cancellation of Risk Equalisation to favour the other ‘for-profit’ Health Insurance companies means ‘Community Rating’ (everyone pays the same subs) is now a farce. But the whole ‘two-tier’ system is what needs to be changed. Fine Gael’s proposal to force everyone into the Private Health Insurance market would be a disaster. Costs would skyrocket through billing, marketing, profits, legal and accounting fees and massive executive salaries and bonuses as well as the duplication and distortion caused by organising care on the basis of money rather than medical need. Hospital Consultants doing private practice are already on a salary of €200,000 a year but get the same again in fees. That is over €300 million a year wasted. Insurers pay tens of millions for advertising. Instead of markets, Universal healthcare needs democratically elected Community Health Councils to ensure profiteering or political corruption do not get in the way of well-planned Health services.
A National Health Service that is Universal, Comprehensive, Democratically planned, Funded by Progressive taxation and Free at the point of use.

No more hospital closures, service reductions or staff cuts.

Reopen closed wards and increase bed capacity to 15,000 beds nationally.
Increase health staffing to at least EU average levels.
Stop the covert implementation of the Hanly report. Proposals for ‘improvement’ in services should be approved democratically by the local communities affected, informed by all the best options for improving care. Any useful Private facilities could be incorporated into public system by nationalising them. The drive for profits in Nursing Homes is undermining standards of staffing numbers and training.
Improve care and respect for elderly people in an aging population. Throw out the ‘Fair Deal’. Plan for an aging population with a full range of services: proper free state nursing home care, sheltered accommodation/retirement villages, house adaptations, home care, community services and respite for carers. Reverse the cuts and increase the Carers allowance.

Increase funding for Mental Health to at least 10% of health budget. Improve access to social support, OT and psychotherapy as alternatives to medication and ECT. Improve access for children to prompt, good quality mental health and developmental assessments and therapies by staffing Child Mental Health and Early Intervention Teams to age 18. Improve liaison with and availability of school supports including small class sizes, Resource Teachers, SNAs and NEPS psychologists.

Improve cancer care including screening, access to diagnostic tests, radiotherapy/chemo close to home and transport to regional centres as required. Reverse decision to close St Lukes.

More ambulances and air ambulances to reduce transit times in emergencies. Guarantee response to medical emergencies by ambulance within 12 minutes and transit time to emergency healthcare to be less than one hour in total.

Good health services require good treatment of patients and staff. End ‘outsourcing’ of catering, cleaning and security as wasteful and dangerous.

To fund the health service: Progressive taxation. Cut profiteering in healthcare: Cut private healthcare and Drug company profits by taxation earmarked for healthcare.

Money saved by cutting waste such as the duplication and profits of private medicine to be earmarked for reinvestment in the health service.
Replace HSE Board with elected Community Health Councils for democratic planning of health services. Ensure representation by user groups and health workers.

Prioritise preventive medicine and target poverty and inequality as key factors in improving community health and social well-being.
Root out corruption in healthcare delivery by local and national politicians.

PRINCIPLES OF A NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE:
Universal comprehensive healthcare.

The health service should be ‘universal’ covering everybody and ‘comprehensive’ covering all their health needs (including drug costs, psychotherapy, physio and other therapies and care for teeth, eyes and reproductive health). ‘Universal’ means little without ‘comprehensive’.
Funded through progressive taxation and free at the point of use.

‘Progressive taxation’ is a fairer and more efficient way of funding healthcare. It means the more you earn the higher rate of tax you pay. Insurance is regressive (flat rate) and causes duplication waste and leads to unequal coverage. Direct charges for use is regressive and discourages the less wealthy to avoid using necessary services.
Democratically planned.

Services need to plan ahead based on knowledge of the local population and their health needs. ‘Money should follow the patient’ ignores the fact that money doesn’t put services in place unless they are planned ahead. Money should ‘go ahead of the patient’ instead. Democratic control by the local community and frontline workers is necessary to ensure healthcare (rather than profit or political careers) remains the priority.

Bail out the People, not the Banks!

Posted: February 7, 2011 in Welcome

So how are we going to pay for the €19 billion deficit?

Every time an election candidate proposes anything radical, they are hit with this question. Then they are told that if we tear up the IMF deal, the ATM machines will stop working and there will be no money to pay social welfare or public sector workers.

The same scaremongering tactic was used in the Lisbon debates. If you voted No, then foreign investment would flee the country. We were instead supposed to ‘Vote Yes for Jobs’ and ‘be at the heart of Europe’. But after we were finally dragooned into voting Yes, the jobs never appeared. And far from being ‘at the heart of Europe’, we have been shafted with a demand for interest payments of 5.8% from our ‘friends’ in the EU.

So instead of falling for the blackmail, let’s stop and think.

Politics is not just about answers but about how questions are framed and who gets to frame them. The particular question: How are We going to Fix the Deficit? contains three assumptions.

First, who is this ‘WE’? Nobody was talking about how WE could help share the wealth when the Celtic Tiger was booming but yet when the crisis hit, the We word was invoked everywhere. It is only when there is pain about, that the elite talk about sharing.

Second, the question conveys an image of a hole that has to be filled. But this hides the fact that tax revenue keep on falling and so the ‘hole’ gets deeper. Government revenue fell by 4% in 2010; 19% in 2009; 14% in 2008. The reason should be fairly obvious. The more the government cuts, the less money people have in their pockets, the less they buy and so the less people are employed. The ‘deficit hawks’ ignore how their demands for ever more cuts creates a vicious downward cycle that deepens recession.

Third, the question gets its listener to focus only on the public sector and take their eye off the private sector. It assumes that the problem with the Irish economy is the public finances. Yet the most recent figures from the Central Bank, however, contains an ominous figure about how capitalists have gone on an investment strike.

THE INVESTMENT STRIKE
2008 2009 2010 2011
Gross fixed capital formation -14.3 -31.0 -24.8 -13.2
Of which: Building and construction -13.2 -34.9 -32.0 -22
Of which: Machinery and Equipment -15.3 -19.3 -10.0 00
This table shows the astounding drop in investment in the Irish economy over four years. In our society, the bulk of capital for such investment is held by a tiny number of people who only seek an opportunity for profit. They are now sabotaging society by their refusal to invest. The table illustrates how there has been a huge fall not just in construction – as would be expected but also in the broader category of machinery and equipment.

Investment for profit is the engine which drives a capitalist economy. When it seizes up, the whole of society is thrown into a crisis. One aspect of that seizure will be public finance because tax revenues fall and tens of thousands are thrown onto the dole.

So instead of framing the question as: ‘How will we plug the public deficit’ we could equally well ask: What will we do about the investment strike that is causing crisis in public finances and the running of society?

This leads naturally to the issue of what will we do about the super-rich who show no concern for Irish society at large even while their paid mouthpieces tell us to make sacrifices. People Before Profit-United Left Alliance is proposing four principal mechanisms for tackling this issue. The assumption behind the combined measures is the necessity to encroach on the power and resources of capitalists who refuse to help our society.

1. STOP BAILING OUT BANK AND BONDHOLDERS

Last week, the Irish government paid out €750 million to Anglo-Irish bondholders. Yet the combined ‘savings’ from slashing the income of social welfare recipients this year amount to €870 million.

Which only begs the question: Why is it ‘realistic’ to cut social welfare to pay off the likes of Goldman Sachs?

The United Left Alliance will cease these payments to bondholders. Bondholders are very wealthy people who move their money about for speculative purposes. They foolishly gave huge amounts of credit to private Irish banks and so they have as much right to make a claim on the Irish people as regular punters who lose at the bookie shop.

We also advocate an end ‘re-capitalising’ Irish banks. These banks have already received €60 billion but are demanding still more in funds. We have been repeatedly told that these injections of public money are necessary to get credit flowing again.

But it has just been revealed that €110 billion was withdrawn from Irish banks in the past year – including €18 billion in Irish funds. In other words, a quite run on Irish banks is underway because the Irish are so ‘unpatriotic’ that they put their greed for profit over the welfare of society.

What is the point, therefore, pumping ever more public money into a leaking system.
We need instead to take emergency measures to create a good state banking system from the remnants of the private sector. The debts of that were run up by these banks will be repudiated; all accounts below €100,000 will be guaranteed by the state; emergency laws will be introduced to take the physical assets and accounts of the old banks into the new state bank. This bank will then function like a credit union and will be banned from engaging in speculative activity. Large-scale loans – generated from deposits from citizens – will be directed towards planned investment projects that create jobs and provide a real return.
These measures will save billions for Irish society.

TAX THE MILLIONAIRES TO SAVE THE POOR

A number of measures can raise funds to help society

A Wealth Levy: the last Bank of Ireland wealth report indicated that there were 33,000 millionaires who had combined assets of €150 billion. The economist Tom O Connor has adjusted these figures to take account of falling property prices and rising bond market prices and calculates that this millionaire class now has €121 billion in assets. A wealth levy of 5 percent would raise €6 billion – and do away with the need for the savage cuts in last year’s budget.

A new tax on incomes over €100,000. It is not fair that someone who receives an income of €200,000 pays the same rate of tax as someone on €40,000. All income of single earners over €100,000 should be taxed at 70 percent to raise necessary funds. After World War 2, Japan established a legal maximum income of five times the minimum income. So a 70 percent tax rate looks ’moderate’ by comparison.

Impose a Financial Transaction Tax: Dublin has become a major centre for financial speculation. Irish resident investment funds accounted for 10 percent of the eurozone area. These include hedge funds and funds used to speculate in government bonds – including those of Ireland itself. The French right wing President Sarkozy is currently advocating a financial transaction tax of 0.5% of currency movements across borders. Such a tax would generate considerable revenue for Ireland
.
Increase taxes on profits. Ireland’s industrial development strategy has been based on its status as an Atlantic tax haven but this is no longer sustainable. Other countries are undercutting Ireland’s low corporation profits tax rate and there is now huge pressure from the EU to change it. Each 1% rise in corporation profits tax will generate an income of €300 million. So a 1.5% rise, for example, would do away with the need for a Universal Social Charge on PAYE workers.

STOP THE GRAVY TRAIN – SLASH THE JUNKETS

The left does not accept the artificial division between public sector and private sector. We want to tackle the greed of the rich in both sectors. It is unacceptable, for example, that Cathal Magee, the head of the HSE, is earning more than the US President Barack Obama. These exhorbitant managerial salaries must be cut.

We want to:

Slash the salaries of TDs, judges and top civil servants and semi-state executives. The scandal whereby the most recent crop of Ministers walk away with pensions of more than €200,000 must end.
Impose a maximum salary of €100,00 on the public sector. It is time to restore the ethos of public service not private greed.

End the rip off of public funds through crony procurement. Irish capitalists have traditionally looked for secure profits by getting government contracts. Hangers-on of Fianna Fail have used the planning mechanism to secure big pay-outs. This needs to stop.

Stop consultants working in private practice while paid by the state. Introduce generic drugs in all cases except where necessary for health reasons.

PUBLIC INVESTMENT TO CREATE JOBS

The engine of our economy must be started through a new investment programme that can create jobs. As private capital has failed, it is necessary for the state to step in and take a lead. This shift to public investment has two aspects;

A Public Works programme to give immediate work to the unemployed. 14% of the Irish workforce were employed as construction workers at the height of the Celtic Tiger. These should be taken on by a state construction company to engage in necessary infrastructural work while the economic crisis lasts. We need, for example, a major insulation programme for housing. Instead of installing water meters for eventual private profit, people should be employed to fix the water infrastructure.

Long term state investment to create jobs. We need to take Ireland’s natural resources of oil and gas into public ownership. These assets are currently valued at €45 billion but will increase as oil and gas become more scarce. Public ownership of these resources will allow us to develop downstream industry and to fund new investment projects such as the Spirit of Ireland proposals to develop wind and tidal power off our coast.

In 2008 and 2009, a quarter of a million people were made unemployed. The cost of this to society at large was €14.5 billion when account is taken of falling PAYE taxes and payment of social welfare.

The ‘deficit hawks’ in the right wing parties say we must keep cutting. The left says invest in our society and put people back to work.

Our programme is practical and workable. It requires popular mobilisation to take the resources of our society out of the hands of a tiny minority who have squandered it and continue to squander it.

Just click on the link below…

Seamus O’ Brien Election Manifesto

At the beginning of 2011 overcrowding in A&E and hikes in VHI and Aviva private Health Insurance highlighted the long-term problems of capacity and funding in the Irish health service.
Instead of the 3,000 beds promised by FF since 2001, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation now estimates 1,700 more acute beds in public hospitals have been closed since 2008.
Fear of long waiting lists and unequal access to consultant specialists has pushed half the population to take out private Health Insurance.
Hospital Consultants doing private practice are already on a salary of €200,000 a year but get the same again in fees.
That is over €300 million a year wasted.

2-Tier System

However, Fine Gael’s 2009 healthcare policy ‘Faircare’, backed by Labour, would ignore the beds crisis and encourage the private Health Insurance industry to increase their control over healthcare.
While FG’s ‘Universal Health Insurance’ sounds appealing, its real agenda is greater corporate control of the health system.
Having health insurance and having access to good healthcare are far from being the same thing.
Ask any American.
At the core of FG’s approach is a system of mandatory health insurance.
Everyone without a medical card will be obliged to pay for health Insurance.
This means transferring costs from progressive taxation (more expensive for the rich) to Insurance premiums (more expensive for the poor).
Fine Gael argues that the health system currently fails because there is both a private and public system.
But their solution is to give the private system the upper hand and take over administering health on a for-profit basis.

Market

It could hardly be any clearer.
Huge EU and US health insurance companies will enter the Irish market and shape the direction of health policy by controlling funding but also through lobbying and bribing politicians.
Their motives will be directed by profit rather than by a planned approach to public health.
Private capitalists investing in primary healthcare centres will expect high profits.
What remains of the public system will be driven by a policy known as ‘Money Follows the Patient’ (MFTP).
Under MFTP, health providers will be paid for how many patients they treat.
Patients will be a source of ‘income’ rather than a ‘cost’, just as they are in private hospitals today.
GPs will compete to win contracts to treat patients from the insurance companies.
The more they capture, the more money they earn.
In this new market utopia, health care purchasers and providers (buyers and sellers) are separated but both will be driven by market motives.

Quality?

But this only begs the question: if patients are regarded as cash cows, what quality of treatment can they expect?
If more patients equals more money, is there not an incentive to process them quickly?
Also, more people treated for diabetes, for example, might mean that diabetes is on the increase because preventive health approaches are not being funded.
What will happen to people with such long-term (‘chronic’) conditions?
Will GPs not also have an incentive to avoid taking on ‘awkward’ cases which require frequent long-term treatment but get low payments from the insurers?
And what of the claim that the wonders of market competition will drive health costs down?
Commenting on the Dutch system touted by Fine Gael, health analyst Sara Bourke points out that:
“While there were reduced costs due to competing private providers in the first two years, the costs (in Netherlands) have gone back up by 10% in 2007 and 2008”.
Also the government has had to pay for about 500 extra staff to regulate the insurance industry which, unlike FGs proposal, are all not-for-profit organisations.
Like in the US, the reality is that costs would double through billing, advertising, profits, legal and accounting fees and massive executive salaries and bonuses as well as the poor quality of care as a result of organising care on the basis of profit rather than medical need.
Far from improving the current healthcare system, therefore, FG policies would exacerbate its worst aspects.
Instead of insurance and markets, Universal Healthcare needs democratically elected Community Health Councils to ensure profiteering or political corruption do not get in the way of well-planned Health services.

Principles of a national health service:

1. Universal and Comprehensive Healthcare.
The health service should be ‘universal’ covering everybody and ‘comprehensive’ covering all their health needs (including drug costs, psychotherapy, physio and other therapies and care for teeth, eyes and reproductive health). ‘Universal’ means little without ‘comprehensive’.
2. Funded through Progressive Taxation and Free at the point of use.
‘Progressive taxation’ is a fairer and more efficient way of funding healthcare. It means the more you earn the higher rate of tax you pay. Insurance is regressive (flat rate) and causes duplication waste and leads to unequal coverage. User fees are regressive and discourage the less wealthy from using necessary services.
3. Democratically Planned.
Services need to plan ahead based on knowledge of the local population and their health needs. Money should ‘go ahead’ not follow the patient. Democratic control by the local community and frontline workers is necessary to ensure healthcare (rather than profit or political careers) remains the priority.