Sinn Fein Will Hold Office of Mayor Of Dublin During 1916 Commemorations

Although the position of Mayor of Dublin is largely ceremonial with the office-holder yielding little if any real power the position does have a number of distinct benefits, including being a representative for the city at major public events.

Criona Ni Dhalaigh

Perhaps there will be no larger public event in Dublin next year than the centenary celebrations to mark the 1916 Easter Rising. Councillor Criona Ni Dhalaigh is the Sinn Fein Councillor who was elected to the post and will officiate as the city’s ‘number one citizen’ during the many events that are planned.

Not everyone is happy with this turn of events.

Irish citizen Austin Stack is one such person. His father was killed by the IRA in 1983 and he has accused Sinn Fein of trying to establish a link between their Political Party and the rebels of 1916.

‘It’s nauseating to think that a person who is a member of an organization which supported the slaughter of thousands of Irish people over the last 40 years will now take a salute on a reviewing stand, on a day which remembers those who gave their lives for democracy and inclusiveness. (It would be)…very insensitive (to ask Gardai and Defence Forces to salute) …somebody whose organization supports the actions which led to their colleagues being murdered.’

He called on Councillor Criona Ni Dhalaigh to decline her invitation to be part of the ceremony in ten months time.

Strong words, but Sinn Fein remain defiant with the new Mayor responding:

‘It is a hugely important year and I just want to reiterate – and we’ve said this until we’re blue in the face – that the celebration and commemoration of 1916 does not belong to any one single party. It belongs to the people of Dublin. My party has been celebrating 1916 for years, so it’s nothing new to us. We will commemorate it, and the important thing is that the people who do commemorate the brave heroes of 1916 do so in a fitting manner.’

Ireland Among Most Peaceful Countries in the World

Ireland has ranked very well in the latest Global Peace Index

The index is compiled by the nonprofit Institute for Economics and Peace and releases an annual report on the peacefulness of 162 of the world’s countries. 23 factors such as violent crime, weapons importation, prison population, political instability and internal conflict are all considered in the compilation of what has become an eagerly awaited ‘peace league table’.

Global Peace Index 2015


European countries claimed six of the top ten places reflecting the relative stability of the region. Ireland placed in twelfth position among the worlds most peaceful nations with the list headed by Iceland, then Denmark, with Sweden in thirteenth place, its Scandinavian neighbors all managing to finish in the top twenty yet again.


1 Iceland

2 Denmark

3 Austria

4 New Zealand

5 Switzerland

6 Finland

7 Canada

8 Japan

9 Australia

10 Czech Republic

11 Portugal

12 Ireland

13 Sweden

14 Belgium

15 Slovenia

16 Germany

17 Norway

18 Bhutan

19 Poland

20 Netherlands


The US ranked in 94th place with the UK in 39th position. Iraq and Syria propped up the bottom of the list which is unsurprising given the ongoing terrible conflicts in those countries.

Side-Effects Of The Same-Sex Referendum In Ireland

There were wild scenes of celebration in most of the main Irish urban locations as the result of the Referendum to legalize same-sex marriage was announced.

Gay Marriage Referendum in Ireland

The vote was carried by a big margin with 61.2% in favour of the proposed new laws with 37.9% against. Dublin Castle was the epicenter of the joyous scenes which redefines marriage in Ireland as a union between two people, regardless of their sex. Ireland is the first country in the world to approve such laws by way of a national ballot in what is being seen as a landmark vote. Many US states have already legalized same-sex marriage while some other countries have similarly done so by enacting laws rather than conducting a national vote.

Given that Ireland is an overwhelmingly Catholic country the response from the Vatican has been swift.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin is the Vatican Secretary of State:
‘Not a defeat for Christian principles, it was a defeat for humanity. I was very saddened by this result.’

With the dust settling the attention has turned to the not-so-obvious consequences of the ballot which may yet prove to be a massive turning point in Irish political and social history, and for more than just the issue that was proposed.

Young people participated

For example, the degree to which younger people became engaged in the political process amazed many commentators who now speculate that a whole new raft of voters will continue to make their voice heard. In a manner similar to the way in which US President Obama was first elected to office, the gay marriage Referendum in Ireland was greatly supported by younger people at a grass-roots level. Many had never even voted before but were now actively campaigning, knocking on doors, handing out leaflets and taking part in a way that has never been seen in Ireland.

Decline in Church influence is confirmed

For the Catholic Church this perhaps represents the absolute end of its influence in Ireland. Of course the largest religious organization in the country will continue to have a huge following, but here is a situation where a massive number of its own followers actually voted against one of the basic tenets of their own religion. The fierce control that local Priests exercised over the Irish citizenry has all but evaporated in the face of the increasing secularization of Irish society. Church attendance has plummeted with scandals badly affecting the Church and this in tandem with increasing modernization in the country allied with greater wealth and a better standard of living.

Perhaps the tipping point can be traced back to 1995 when the divorce Referendum was carried in Ireland by the incredibly slim margin of 50.28% to 49.72%, just over 9000 votes. Just nine years earlier, in 1986, the same vote to allow limited divorce was heavily defeated by over 63.48% to 36.52% in the wake of huge pressure from the Catholic Church. It is no coincidence that the following decade saw the beginning of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ era in Ireland with the country greatly modernizing, immigration increasing, and the overall standard of living greatly improving. Surely the divorce Referendum of 1995 was the turning point with the most recent gay marriage Referendum the final nail in the coffin. The domineering influence of the Catholic Church in the country is no more.

Nearly 40% of voters said ‘no’

While the ‘yes’ side celebrate it has not gone unnoticed that nearly four in ten actually voted ‘no’. The majority of these are located beyond the main urban centers, in rural towns and villages that have been decimated by emigration and economic depression. In the context of Irish politics they are simply unrepresented. Fine Gael can be regarded as the most conservative of the Irish political groups and yet it was Fine Gael who brought the referendum to the electorate!

Most of the other political parties are either centrist or left-wing to varying degrees with what could broadly be called a ‘conservative’ minority having no political frontage. Surely this is an opportunity for Fianna Fail or the newly formed Renua party, or perhaps a break-away wing of Fine Gael?

Media bias in Ireland is incredible, and dangerous

If conservative voters are unrepresented in Dail Eireann then they are also largely unrepresented in the Irish media. The degree to which Irish newspapers and television supported the ‘yes’ campaign was incredible. Of course some commentators who were opposed to the vote were given their opportunity to be heard but the overwhelming emphasis in the media was to encourage a ‘yes’ vote. Disgracefully so in some quarters with any semblance of objectivity being binned in the face of apparent public approval for the new proposals.

Ignoring the gay marriage issue for a moment, it has to be acknowledged that a compliant media that refuses to question its own Government (think of the US media in the run up to the Iraq war) and cheer-leads its own agenda is a very dangerous influence in a supposed democratic society. While the ‘yes’ voters may not be concerned today about this issue, perhaps the next Referendum will be one on which they find themselves on the wrong side of the media pressure. This affects everyone in Ireland.

External lobbyist money influenced the debate

In a new development in Irish political and social life the US-style lobby group has reached new heights in Ireland. Of course there have always been lobbyists for all manner of issues in Ireland but the degree to which an external agency (Chuck Feeny and ‘Atlantic Philanthropies’) funded the ‘yes’ campaign with staggering sums of money is a new development.

Regardless of the issue at hand, the influence by lobbyists that are funded from abroad cuts to the very quick of the democratic ideal. If foreign money can indeed buy and make Irish laws (whatever the subject) then the Irish Republic that is to be celebrated in 2016 is dead.

Irish voters are unpredictable

The degree to which the Irish political landscape is so complicated can be gauged by the fact that on the same day that the gay marriage Referendum was carried by a big margin, another Referendum was heavily defeated by 73.06% to 26.94%. This second vote sought to lower the age at which a candidate could be elected to the office of President of Ireland from the current 35 years to 21 years.

How the electorate could be so tolerant of peoples rights in respect of marriage and so intolerant of their right to be elected to a political office because of their age really takes some advanced thinking to understand.

We can offer no explanation.

No Likelihood of Abortion Referendum in Ireland Before Next General Election

Still celebrating their stunning success in the recent gay marriage Referendum those on the ‘liberal left’ in Ireland are desperate to get the abortion issue back onto the agenda.

Abortion in Ireland

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is unlikely however to risk further alienating his mostly conservative base by broaching what is perhaps the most controversial and divisive social issue in Ireland (and perhaps in the entire western world).

Enda Kenny: ‘I do not believe that this house should be rushed into making a decision… This requires the most careful consideration by whoever is elected… There won’t be a Referendum on this in the lifetime of this Government’

Abortion is illegal in Ireland with the effect of the ban being to export the abortion problem abroad. Countless hundreds of Irish women are forced to make the trip to the UK in order to have an abortion. Despite widescale support to have this issue tackled successive Irish Governments have failed to take any meaningful action with the current Fine Gael and Labour Party coalition no different from their Fianna Fail predecessors.

Economic Recovery In Ireland Is Under Way

Recently released statistics have revealed that 3653 new businesses were started in Ireland during May 2015, which is a 24% increase on the same month in 2014. There were 79 insolvencies registered during May, which is a 38% drop on the previous year.

Unemployment Rate in Ireland

These numbers are a sure indicator that the Irish economy is on the way back. Combined with the reduction in the rate of unemployment to 9.9%, down from over 15% at its worst and under 10% for the first time since 2009, the indications are good. Long term unemployment fell back from 7.3% to 5.9% during the last year, which is an incredible reduction by any standard. Unemployment has fallen in Ireland by over 2.2% in the space of one year. Of course these bare statistics do not account for the massive numbers of young Irish people who have been forced to emigrate since the financial collapse of 2008.

Government Minister Richard Bruton commented:
‘There are still many people around the country who are not yet feeling the benefits yet, and there is still a long way to go before we can say we have replaced all the jobs that were lost, before we can attract young emigrants home in large numbers, before we can have jobs available for all the unemployed.’

Labour Party Attempts to Buy Votes By Squandering Millions

The Labour Party has announced its intention to squander over 566 Million Euro of taxpayers money in an attempt to buy votes in the next General Election. State employees are to receive an average of 2000 Euro each over the next two years.

In an obvious throw-back to the politics of the past the blatant bribery is being criticized in many quarters, but not apparently by those who are to receive the cash. Despite this appalling wastage of public money in the interest of political salvation, the giveaway is unlikely to help the ailing Labour Party who look set to be destroyed at the next election.

Phone Boxes May Be Removed From Irish Streets

For years the telephone boxes that were about the size of a large wardrobe dotted the streets of Ireland.

Irish Telephone Box

On rainy days (it does sometimes rain in Ireland) they provided a safe haven for a minimum of two people (depending on stature) and it was no surprise to see as many as three adults squashed into these tiny apartments, away from the torrential downpour outside.

Many have already been replaced by wall-mounted kiosks and it seems that the days of the remaining telephone boxes are numbered. Due to anti-social activity and the wide-spread usage of mobile phones there have been calls for these relics of a previous iteration of the data communication revolution to be dismantled forever.

The decline has already begun. According to Eircom, the telephone network provider, there were 836 payphones in Dublin in 2006. Less than ten years later there are now only 353.

14 Year Old Waterford Boy Was The Youngest Solider Killed In World War 1

Irish in World War One

During the 1970’s and 1980’s in Ireland the annual remembrance of those tens of thousands of Irish who gave their lives in the Great War was met with a kind of muted national indifference.

Certainly there was laying of wreaths and some elderly people would wear a poppy (before the poppy symbolism was hijacked by the British establishment in an effort to promote their own particular brand of nationalism).

But once the brief RTE television news report had been played the Irish people continued on without much acknowledgement of the anniversary, with younger people especially indifferent to what seemed like a quaint pre-independence ritual.

After all, the ‘real’ heroes of the Irish republic were the men of 1916, Pearse and Connolly, the men and women who had fought the War of Independence and the subsequent Civil War, deValera and Collins, plunging Ireland into a scarring divide that would hold the economically bankrupt country back for generations to come.

The Civil War divide still remains in Ireland, but it is very much on its last knees. At last a left-wing Labour movement has emerged (although not necessarily via the Labour Party). Incredibly that may even necessitate a union of the two former political enemies. Even twenty years ago this would have seemed like a fanciful proposition. It was just impossible to conceive that Fianna Fail and Fine Gael would form a coalition together. But now the electoral arithmetic makes that outcome a very real possibility.

What of the 50,000 who perished in the war? What is their legacy following the march of time.

First World War Recruiting Poster from Ireland

Finally it seems that their sacrifice is being realized. It was in 1966 that Sean Lemass, the Irish Taoiseach who is credited with dragging the country into the developed economic world remarked:

‘In later years, it was common – and I also was guilty in this respect – to question the motives of those men who joined the new British armies formed at the outbreak of the war, but it must, in their honour and in fairness to their memory, be said that they were motivated by the highest purpose, and died in their tens of thousands in Flanders believing they were giving their lives in the cause of human liberty everywhere, not excluding Ireland.’

It would be nearly a half century though before an admiration, or at least an acknowledgement, of those Irish troops who joined the British army could co-exist with a similar admiration (even worship in many cases) of those men and women who had fought in the cause of Irish freedom in the ruins of the GPO on Easter Sunday in 1916, or in the fields of Ireland against the Black and Tans in 1921.

Why did they do it? Why did the Irish volunteer for the British Army?

The motivation of soldiers in any age, including today, who are often impervious to any criticism, such is the level of bombast in certain places, is rarely easy to grasp.

Many initially volunteered for the money. This was the Ireland of ‘Strumpet City’ and ‘The Lockout’. Jobs were very hard to find and when found, paid poorly. Poverty, especially in the main Irish cities of Dublin and Cork was extraordinary, even by modern day standards.

Today there are various definitions of poverty, the most often used in Ireland is that anyone with an income of 60% of the average national wage is ‘in poverty’. In the decade leading up to the great war such a definition would have been much more relevant. In modern Ireland the lack of a TV satellite dish is regarded as a symbol of poverty. Everything is relative.

Most however, joined to represent their country and to fight for freedom. When the all but forgotten Irish nationalist John Redmond encouraged and even demanded that his Irish followers enlist in the British army to fight the German menace he did so in the hope that the service of the Irish would be remembered and rewarded. It is easy to look back now and lament at how naive he must have been.

Francis Ledwidge was an Irish volunteer who was to die in preparation of the Third battle of Ypres in 1917:

‘I joined the British Army because she stood between Ireland and an enemy of civilisation and I would not have her say that she defended us while we did nothing but pass resolutions.’

John Condon - the Boy Soldier

The stage was set in Ireland for another dramatic failure, as that what the Easter Rising was from a military standing. But the British over-reacted, executed the Irish rebel leaders. Their martyrdom ensured that the die was cast and the Irish journey to independence was unstoppable.

What might those Irish trapped in the blood-filled trenches of Belgium and France have thought now?

Francis Ledwidge again:

‘If someone were to tell me now that the Germans were coming in over our back wall, I wouldn’t lift a finger to stop them. They could come!’

Poelcapelle Cemetery in Flanders is the final resting place of Private John Condon who hailed from Waterford and was known as the ‘Boy Soldier’. He had worked as a bottler in Sullivan’s Bottling Stores in Waterford before, aged 13 years, he lied his way into the British army. He is recorded as the youngest military casualty of the first World War.

He died at the second battle of Ypres in May 1915, killed in action at Bellevarde Ridge on a day when ‘a strange greenish mist crept across from the enemy position, to attack the eyes and throat and burn out the lungs.’

So many Irish soldiers returned to their country with damage to their lungs from the poison they had breathed, many to suffer for decades with their injuries.

As many as 206,000 Irish soldiers served in the British army during the first world war.

Over 50,000 perished.

On this Remembrance Day nearly a century later should we not ask: Is Private John Condon any less of a martyr in the cause of Irish freedom than Pearse or Connolly?

by Michael Green
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Government Probe into Banking Crisis May Examine Media Collusion

In what is becoming a far-reaching examination of the disastrous events of 2008 to 2010 in Ireland the Irish Government committee set up to examine the issues has suggested that Newspaper editors and other media commentators may be called upon to give evidence.

This is something quite new in Ireland. Rarely has the Irish media been examined for its role in creating and fuelling news stories. And this is the news story about the single biggest economic event in the history of the country.

Broken ATM

The collapse of the Irish banks was directly tied to the bursting of the property bubble, leaving the banks with huge debts. Unable to pay, the banks went cap-in-hand to the Government who effectively underwrote the debts, transforming private debt into public debt, and forcing years of austerity onto the shoulders of Irish citizens who had to re-pay the loans.

And to whom exactly were the loans repaid? To German, French and European bondholders who the EU/IMF/ECB ‘troika’ insisted be repaid or else they would declare the country bankrupt. The only option facing the Fianna Fail Government of the time was to agree to the European bullying, or else the lights would be turned off, ATM machines would stop working and within a few days the rioting and looting would begin.

This was the stark situation facing the Irish Government who were severely criticized and turfed out of office at the next election, to be replaced by Fine Gael and Labour (who pledged to ‘burn the bondholders’). The new coalition Government did not change the policies of their predecessors and instead reneged on their election promises and continued to cow-tow to Europe.

Recent attempts to have the EU/IMF/ECB include Ireland in new financial arrangements that would reduce the Irish debt burden have so far failed. And why should they allow Ireland a break? The Irish have already committed to repay the debt over the next two decades. The bondholders in Germany have already been repaid!

It is against this backdrop that the banking probe is being operated. The fact that several media outlets invested heavily in property and property-related websites may have caused a conflict of interest for them. The Irish Times famously and disastrously paid 50 Million Euro for the myhome.ie property web site at the height of the property bubble. The website is now worth a fraction of that amount.

The degree to which media editors drove the story, shaped public opinion and actually reported facts is certain to be of great interest to observers once the probe gets going.

Potentially this is political dynamite.

US Governor Appeals to Ireland over Cigarette Packaging

It is not often that events in Ireland register among the political fraternity in North Carolina but news that Ireland is planning to force cigarette companies to use plain packaging on their products has prompted Governor Pat McCrory to act.

Smoking in Ireland

Writing to the Irish Ambassador to the United States, Anne Anderson, the Governor requested that his concerns be forwarded to the Irish Government for consideration in what is becoming an international assault on the Irish proposals. Ireland it will be remembered was the first country in the world to introduce a blanket ban on smoking in the workplace. The legislation was presented as a health-care issue for workers rather than an attack on cigarettes per se, but of course the effect was the same. No-one can really argue that an individual does have the right to damage the health of another person by smoking in an enclosed work environment and thus the new laws were widely accepted and implemented.

The smoking ban in Ireland badly hit the revenues of pubs and hotels especially, both of which are businesses crucial to Ireland’s tourist economy. Despite this the laws remain, with prospects of their reach being extended.

The Irish war on tobacco continues and the latest proposals involve compelling cigarette manufacturers to have brand-free blank labelling on all of their tobacco products. Ireland already forces manufacturers to print extreme and graphic photographs of the effects of cigarettes on its packaging – a policy that neuro-science fMRI research suggests is counter-productive. Now the focus is on removing all branding and slogans such as ‘low tar’ from the packaging in a bid to stop the use of cigarettes in Ireland, especially among women.

One in three Irish women now smoke regularly with lung cancer now overtaking breast cancer as the main cause of cancer death among women in Ireland. In poorer areas the rate of smoking among women is over 50%. A recent study by an Australian research group revealed the following rates of smoking internationally:

Afghanistan 50%
Greece 39%
Russia 35%
India 32%
Ireland 27%
UK 24%
Australia 18%
Canada 17%
USA 17%
Iran 11%

North Carolina is home to the second-largest tobacco firm in the US, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company who manufacture the Camel brand of cigarettes. Three of that States top five employers are tobacco companies. So while it is not surprising that the Governor of North Carolina should take such an interest in anything likely to effect the employment of his constituents, it is perhaps a little surprising that his reach should extend to Ireland.

Governor McCrory suggested that the ban on branding would be a ‘direct assault’ on intellectual property and trademark rights. He wrote that there was ‘little evidence that plain packaging measures are anything more than symbolism’. Perhaps missing the point that all branding is a form of symbolism.

The Republican politician said the Irish plans threatened to ‘divert attention and resources from more effective actions that could achieve Ireland’s greater goal of being smoke-free during the next decade’. He declined to offer suggestions as to how the country might become smoke-free.

He suggested that retaliatory action in the US could hit Irish businesses:

Imagine if the United States required Guinness to be stripped of its universally recognised brand and be marketed solely as ‘beer’ or Jameson to be labelled simply as ‘whiskey’ and Baileys as ‘liqueur’. These outstanding Irish companies would be outraged and would argue that the quality and distinction of their products, as conveyed through their brand packaging, were being stolen – and they would be right.’

Presumably any such alcohol labelling ban would apply to US beer companies and not just Irish companies but nevertheless this is a fair point. The focus in Ireland is currently very much on cigarettes while it can be argued that alcohol advertising is also very damaging.

The letter to the Irish Ambassador concludes by saying that he respects Ireland’s ‘sovereign prerogative to govern’.

The issue is clearly divisive in the US also with the US Chamber of Commerce joining the North Carolina Governor in his objections to plain packaging while the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association have both written to Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny supporting the proposed new laws.

Pressure against the initiative is building. Within Europe Italy became the ninth EU state to object to the anti-smoking packaging, joining the Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Bulgaria, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.

It remains to be seen if the Irish Government has the will to proceed.

by Michael Green
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