The Report by the Committee that was established to investigate the role that the Irish Government played in the abuses perpetuated in the notorious ‘Magdalene Laundries’ is to be published.
In the decades that followed the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922 and the Republic in 1948 the Catholic Church had tremendous influence in Ireland. It is only since the 1970′s that this influence has declined. Over the last two decades the litany of abuse carried out in institutions by religious orders and sponsored by the State has been graphically exposed. One such institution was the ‘Magdalene Laundry’ where young girls and women who had a child out of wedlock, or who were prostitutes, or who were even homeless, were basically interned.
The Laundries were state-sponsored workhouses. Although privately owned by religious orders they were subsidised by the Irish State for part of their existence. Thousands of women were forced to work in the Laundries which were run on a for-profit basis by several religious orders. The inmates were imbued with a sense of shame – their first names were changed and their surnames never used. They were often labelled as ‘Maggie’ by those of the public they encountered – a slang-word for a prostitute. It is both an amazing and damning fact that the final Laundry did not close until 1996. Located in Sean McDermott Street it is in the very heart of Dublin city centre.
The survivors of the Laundries – ‘Magdalene Survivors Together’ – have demanded that the Government finally issue an apology for the part it played in the abuse. The instigation of an appropriate compensation scheme is also the very least that can be done now. What compensation can their be for a life destroyed by these terrible places? Many did not even make it out the front gate. At least 988 women were buried within the grounds of the Laundries – likely many more died within the walls.
It is amazing that this new enquiry only took place after prompting from the United Nations Committee Against Torture in 2011. Perhaps now ‘Official Ireland’ will give these women some sense of justice.
RTE report highlighting the Magdalene survivors campaign:
The 2002 feature film ‘The Magdalene Sisters’ is available to view on YouTube:
The recent attempts by the Irish Government to recruit new nurses into the profession at 80% of the usual starting wage has backfired.
Nursing Unions have mounted a vocal campaign against the scheme which they regard as an insult to the work done by nursing staff on the front line of the health service. The Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) has been forced to extend the deadline for applications after interest in the jobs was reported as being very low. Should the HSE be forced to abandon the scheme all together it will be seen as a victory for the Unions whose members are increasingly being asked to work longer and harder for less and less pay.
Union leader Liam Doran was scathing of the HSE decision to extend the scheme: ‘The HSE decision also confirms that this was never an educational programme, nor an opportunity to consolidate learning, but was always an overt attempt to introduce cut-price, yellow-pack nursing posts into our health service.’
Under the Government proposals new nurses would earn 22,000 euro (approx 30,000 US$) compared to their colleagues who were recruited at 26,000 euro (approx 35,000 US$). The contracts were to last for only 2 years. The average industrial wage in Ireland in 2012 was just under 42,000 euro (57,000 US$) according to the Central Statistics Office.
By any measure these rates of pay would show nursing to be a very poorly paid job for highly trained graduates to take up in Ireland. Yet their work is crucial to just about every citizen of the country.
The tragedy of Irish emigration continues unabated. Over 46,500 Irish people emigrated from Ireland in the year up to April 2012. The rate of emigration is the highest in Ireland since the Great Famine in the middle of the nineteenth century.
The devastating recession and austerity measures being imposed in Ireland have made work very hard to come by. Unemployment remains above 14% in Ireland and at over 11% in the Eurozone. Little wonder then that so many Irish citizens are flocking to places like Canada, Australia and America.
More than half of the 6,350 working visas to Canada available to Irish people during 2013 have been taken up in the space of just a few days. Demand for the 2-year work-travel visas has been especially high as Canada is crying out for skilled workers in certain parts of the country. The high cost of living in Canada and particularly in the major cities such as Toronto and Vancouver has not put off the hordes of mostly younger Irish people who continue to escape from their recession-hit homeland.
The rate of unemployment in Ireland remains stubbornly high within the 14% to 15% range. This bad news has in part been reduced by an increase in the rate of emigration.
The Central Statistics Office has announced that the number of people ‘signing on’ is just under 430,000, down just over 10,000 since the start of 2012. The figures could not mask the increase in the number of those considered to be ‘long-term’ unemployed. Nearly 190,000 of the total unemployed have been claiming benefits for over a year – a 3.3% increase over the year.
The Irish Central Bank estimates domestic growth of only 0.5% in 2013 with GDP growth of 1.3%, a reduction in previous estimates. These numbers do not encourage any belief that the rate of Irish unemployment will decrease any time soon, putting further strain on an Irish economy already struggling with a huge social welfare bill.
European unemployment continues to be a big issue with Spain at a massive 26%, Portugal at 16%, Italy at 11%, France at over 10%, the UK at under 8% and Germany at just under 7%.
Ok there was no actual Pot but a hoard of 81 coins dating from the 1630′s to the early part of the 1700′s has been discovered by workmen at a County Tipperary Pub that had burned down some years ago.
The hoard includes guineas and half-guineas including 35 Charles II coins, 25 James II coins, 19 William III and two William III and Mary III coins. Cooneys’ pub in Carick-on-Suir was one of the oldest pubs in the County until it was destroyed by fire. The unlikely find by the workmen has been described as perhaps the most significant archeological find in the region since the Derrynaflan Chalice was discovered in nearby Killenaule in 1980.
According to Irish law all artifacts found in such a manner are the property of the State. The coins are likely to be displayed in the National Museum of Ireland for whom a spokesperson said:
No comparable 17th-century hoard of gold coins has been found in Ireland since the discovery in Portarlington, County Laois, around 1947, of a hoard that contained little over 100 gold coins as well as some silver coins,
It remains to be seen if the workmen or the pub-owner will receive any reward for the find.
Two separate opinion polls have confirmed the recent rise in support for Fianna Fail and the continuing decline in the popularity of the Labour Party.
The left-wing Labour Party has been widely criticized by both its rank and file membership and by some of its own Parliamentary members for its conduct while in Government. The primary purpose of the Labour Party was to protect the most vulnerable and poorest sections of Irish society. Their association with the policies of the ruling Fine Gael Party is making a lie of that philosophy.
Already they have signed up to budget cuts and tax increases including the new Property Tax that the Party claims it had no choice but to agree to. Their difficulties are reflected in two recent polls that show the Party now trailing Sinn Fein in several key Dublin constituencies. The results of the two polls are shown below:
Labour Party 11% and 11% (19% in 2011 General Election)
Fianna Fail 24% and 21% (17% in 2011)
Fine Gael 26% and 28% (36% in 2011)
Sinn Fein 13% and 19% (10% in 2011)
The trend is very clear with Labour in decline, Fianna Fail improving, Sinn Fein improving but volatile and a big increase in the ‘worry factor’ for Fine Gael.
A ‘Convention on the Constitution’ Committee is meeting to make several recommendations to the Government so that the Irish Constitution can be changed.
The Committee is made up of 66 members of the Irish public, chosen by random, with 33 politicians from various political parties and a chairman making up the 100 strong group. The first order of business they faced was whether to leave the voting age at 18 years or to lower it to 17 or 16 years. They may also vote on reducing the term of the Presidential office from 7 years to 5 years. As many as 8 constitutional amendments will be considered by the Convention including:
A review of the Dail Eireann (Irish Parliament) voting system
Giving Irish residents outside of Ireland the right to vote in Presidential elections
An amendment relating to same-sex marriage
An amendment regarding the role of women in the home
An amendment increasing the participation of women in politics
An amendment to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution
Any actual changes to the Irish Constitution must be approved in a national referendum.
The work of the group represents a unique opportunity for the citizens of Ireland to have a real say in the most important of Irish legal documents. Unionist parties in Ulster were invited by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to participate in the work but declined. Sinn Fein and several other Ulster parties are represented however.
Recent opinion polls suggest that the Irish people are in favour of the abolition of the Seanad (lower house of Parliament), legalising same-sex marriage, and allowing Irish citizens abroad the right to vote in Presidential elections.
The ‘Save No 16 Moore Street’ Committee has called on the Irish Government to provide funding for the restoration of a building in Dublin City Centre that is central to the story of the Easter 1916 Rising.
The unassuming building that is just yards from Henry Street and the GPO was the location where the leaders of the Easter 1916 Rebellion decided to surrender their arms to the overwhelming British forces that were stacked against them. The Committee hopes that the building will be restored and turned into a museum in time for the 1916 centenary commemoration in three years time.
The new museum would display the famous ‘Proclamation of Independence’ and the original letter of surrender. Plans to demolish the building were uncovered by the Committee in 1999 who launched their successful campaign to have the demolition plans scrapped.
“We have saved a lot of what’s left of the 1916 Rising” a spokesperson said.
The Easter 1916 Rising was a pivotal moment in Irish history. Although a military disaster for the rebels the execution of the leaders including Padraig Pearse and James Connolly radically swept public opinion against the British. The remaining rebels then instigated a War of Independence under the guidance of Michael Collins and Eamon deValera. The Anglo-Irish Treaty, the resulting Civil War and the Declaration of Independence in 1948 all trace their origin to the Easter RIsing.
You can find our more about the plans for the museum in this video:
The amount of genuine ‘Euro-skepticism’ that really exists in the United Kingdom is about to be put to the test.
The UK has always had a vocal faction who are very unhappy with the EU. This skepticism ranges from those who want to have their London parliament retain more of its power rather than ceding ever-more to Brussels, to those who want the UK out of the European Union altogether.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that, should his Conservative party be re-elected, a referendum will be held in the UK by 2017. The vote will likely include a number of options and will include an option for the country to completely leave the Union. Britain previously decided to remain outside the Eurozone and retain its own Sterling currency. This proved to be a very wise decision in retrospect, given the financial devastation that the single currency has left in its wake.
Had Ireland retained its own ‘Irish Punt’ currency and thus control of its own Central Bank then there is no way the property bubble that has wrecked the Irish economy would ever have been allowed to grow to the proportions it did. Since interest rates were set by the European Central Bank Ireland was lumbered with low interest rates, cheap loans and a voracious appetite for buying property at precisely the moment it needed it least. Ireland had 1 and 2% interest rates when it should have had 5, 6, and 7% to cool the property market.
While these events are history now, it is with a sense of foreboding that the Irish public and politicians view the vista of our nearest neighbour and largest trading partner actually leaving the European Union completely.
The effects of such a move for Ireland would be wide-reaching. Britain is the export economy upon which Ireland relies most. If trade becomes more difficult or is taxed at a higher rate then the effect on the Irish economy would be severe.
It remains to be seen what the overall response will be from the British public. As David Cameron himself put it:
“The biggest danger to the European Union comes not from those who advocate change, but from those who denounce new thinking as heresy. In its long history Europe has experience of heretics who turned out to have a point.”
Ireland is certainly feeling the pain for having ignored its own heretics who predicted doom when the country joined the Euro currency.
Kerry County Councillor Danny Healy-Rae has called for a special permit to be given to rural people to allow them to visit their local pub, have a few drinks and then drive home without fear of prosecution.
Successive Irish Governments have enabled a big crackdown on the ‘drink and drive’ culture over the last decade. The blood-alcohol limit has been reduced significantly on a number of occasions and there is now much greater enforcement of the laws. An Garda Siochana (Irish Police) can now breathalyse any driver in any situation – no ‘please walk a straight line’ test is needed.
The smoking ban that was introduced in 2004 had the dual effect of curbing the use of tobacco in the workplace as well as impacting severely on the number of times Irish people would visit the pub. People chose to stay at home where they could smoke, if they wished, and also not risk a driving ban if they used their car.
The result has been widespread closures of pubs across Ireland, especially in rural locations. Combine these factors with the devastating effect the recent recession and major tax hikes have had on Irish disposable income and the vista is a very bleak one for the famous Irish pub.
Against this backdrop Councillor Healy-Rae has launched his campaign for the introduction of some kind of scheme to allow rural pub-goers to be allowed to have two or three pints and then drive home. He makes the case that the rural lifestyle is being decimated by the recently introduced regulations and that many country people who live on the periphery of small towns and villages, or perhaps live even more remotely, are existing in a kind of state-sponsored isolation, afraid as they are to drive to a pub and have even a single pint such is their fear of being caught and banned, or even imprisoned.
The chance of any success with Danny Healy-Rae’s campaign is just about zero. Irish roads are a lot safer now than they were even a decade ago, both in terms of the physical infrastructure and the fact that there is a vastly reduced amount of drinking and driving being risked by the Irish citizenry. There will be no turning back that particular clock.
Nevertheless the Kerry Councillor has highlighted a real problem that does exist for many rural and lonely people who are unserved by public transport and unable to afford private taxis or hired transport. Many will remain in an increasing isolation and seclusion, at least partly because of the laws designed to protect us all.