Ireland

The Greek working class has moved decisively into action. The last few days in Greece have demonstrated that faced with an approaching economic calamity the workers are prepared to fight to defend their living standards and their jobs also. However, the bankers and the various competing European powers have no option but to fight for their own interests and will fight to the last gasp. The scene is set for further conflict in the euro zone between the increasingly divergent interests of the European states and between the classes in each of the European countries.

 The decision of the Secretary Of State to revoke Marian Price’s release from prison has been met with widespread opposition from the Republican movement. The justification given was that the threat that she poses has “significantly increased” and that she had been encouraging support for an illegal organisation based on her involvement in an Easter comm

The Nama Wine Lake Blog recently exposed the scandalous statistic that while there are some 300,000 vacant houses in the state, there are still some 100,000 households on the list for state housing. Nama Wine Lake estimates that this represents a minimum of 176,147 people. Even a very conservative estimate of the “overhang” of vacant properties – excluding holiday homes indicates that there are some 100,000 vacant homes - 23 -33,000 of which are on the so called “ghost estates”.

The 24 hour strike by UNISON members to defend Health and Education Services in the North is an indication of the scale of the crisis in the public sector. But its also the most significant trade union struggle to hit the North since the onset of the current economic crisis.

The UVF attacks on the Short Strand area of Belfast over the last days and the clashes between Catholic and Protestant youth demonstrate that despite the claims of the various ministers at Stormont, the underlying tensions and conflicts in the North have neither been resolved nor overcome.

Within the last couple of weeks there has been yet another outbreak of youth protest internationally with the huge movement in Spain which encompasses some 80 cities and now a new movement in Greece has erupted. Meanwhile in North Africa and the Middle East new waves of struggle are being prepared. However, if the Irish press are to believed the waves of struggle that are affecting everywhere else will barely cause a ripple in good ould Ireland. After all, with the royal and presidential distractions of the last few weeks, the only revolting youth to get any coverage in Ireland were Jedward.

The announcement that the Irish banking sector needs another €24 billion, that’s €24,000,000,000 in real numbers or another €5,500 for every Irish man, woman and child, is another sign of the capitalist crisis in the state. Standard and Poor’s one of the main international credit agencies has now downgraded Ireland by a further point.

Some commentators described it as a “democratic revolution.”They were not talking about the current uprisings in parts of North Africa or the wave of mass demonstrations across the Middle East. Rather they were talking about the results of the 26-county elections, which saw the dominant force, Fianna Fail reduced to a mere handful of seats, 20 in all.

We republish here an article by Gerry Ruddy, originally published in the The Red Plough (March 2011), which draws some important lessons from the mass movements in North Africa and the Middle East and their relevance to the struggle for a united Ireland.

Friday's election saw Labour gain the most votes and seats in its history. But Fine Gael came out as the largest party. Eamon Gilmore and Enda Kenny have established negotiating teams to prepare the way for a coalition government. While Labour's leaders have given the negotiations the go ahead any final decision must be made by the party conference which meets on Sunday. Fightback is wholly opposed to such a deal.

While the political arithmetic of the next Dáil won’t be clear until after February the 25th, the battle lines in the state have been drawn for some time. The Irish bourgeois are well aware that Fianna Fáil are a dead duck. Now Enda Kenny has decided to concentrate his fire on the Labour Party. There is one reason alone for this. The bourgeois want full control of the levers of power and to all intents and purposes they want a continuation of Cowen and Lenihan’s austerity programme, regardless of whoever leads the government.

The government had decided as far back  as December last year, when their latest drastic budget cuts were presented and passed, to turn student nurses into ‘free labour’, or, as the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has rightly called it, ‘slave labour’.

As the General Election approaches, the Labour Party leadership continues getting rid of the most radical aspects of its election programme. And, Labour Party members only get to know about these changes through the media.

Ireland may go to the polls on March 11th, but the huge implosion in the Fianna Fáil Party might yet bring that date forward. The FF and Green Party coalition government has eventually reached the end of the line, the Greens have left the government and will “support the finance bill from the opposition benches” Three years of austerity measures and a protracted period of political and financial uncertainty have completely transformed the political landscape in the state and affected the consciousness of all classes within society also.

Who gains from the cut in the minimum wage proposed in the four year plan? Well, according to Brian Cowen it’s the very people who are on the minimum wage just now. As usual with Cowen, it is a question of denying what is abundantly clear to everyone else.

After weeks of dancing the seven veils, trying to hide what they were up to, the government, the EU and the IMF announced on prime time Television today (28 November) that they have signed up to an €85 billion bailout. The money which has 5.8% interest rate attached to it will go to recapitalise the banks( €10bn); fund the budget (€50bn) and deal with “banking contingencies” (€25bn). So in other words the whole lot is going to bail out the banks and keep the government finances going.

100,000 marched from Wood Quay to the GPO today in protest against the austerity measures outlined in the four year plan despite the cold wintery weather. A few even demonstrated in a curagh on the Liffey – the workers navy has arrived. Meanwhile the government are behind closed doors discussing the bailout package with the officials.

Despite some increasingly desperate and clumsy attempts to hide the fact that they were in discussions with the EU and the IMF over a bailout the Government was eventually forced to admit what everyone already knew; that they were desperate to secure a huge bailout to attempt to stabilise the Irish economy. The announcement was met with a huge wave of anger and the thin veneer of normality in Ireland has been ripped apart on prime time TV.