Posts Tagged ‘Northern Ireland’

Northern Ireland’s Problems in a Nutshell

November 14, 2008

Reverse Secularisation

“DIY” Obama Advisor tells Irish Republic.

November 6, 2008

A very interesting set of comments from Dr Robert Shapiro, senior economic advisor to the US President Elect. For the last 50 years, with the Whitaker Plan and the creation of the tax-free zone at Shannon, the economic strategy (if that isn’t too strong a word for most of the period) of the Irish Republic has been to develop the economy through what is now called Foreign Direct Investment. In my post on the Budget last month, I pointed out that this was a budget in the interest of the multinationals, and not the people. But Shapiro believes that the south should seek to build up indigenous companies and industries.

“FDI was a transitional strategy, not an end-game strategy, that created a lasting impact.
The key to Ireland’s next stage was to make the entire economy a modern economy and not one that depended on the success of foreign companies.
The ability to develop ideas is the single most critical factor and source of wealth and growth for advanced economies today, replacing physical assets and this is what Ireland needed to focus on.”

This is both welcome and disturbing. Coming from such a source, we can hope it will have some impact on those in the southern establishment who have failed to sufficiently promote domestic industry, and instead put all their eggs in the foreign investment basket. However, at a time when people have been talking about the real economy, and the importance of not allowing the collective delusion that is high finance, it is worrying that Obama’s advisor still believes that “physical assets” are not needed. From a northern perspective, where the whole economic strategy of the Executive (while it met) was to beg the yanks for investment, this is extremely worrying. Back to the drawing board. Maybe, however, Shapiro is more of a believer in a socialist plan for the economy north and south than we are.

A truly integrated travel plan

October 28, 2008

Travel strategy is an important part of trying to address climate change, as well the quality of life of those who have to get to work during rush hour. Anyone who has spent any significant time in Dublin knows how bad it is when the transport system is totally inadequate to the needs of those who use it. Some time back Conor Murphy, who has been doing a fairly competent job, announced an integrated travel plan designed to ease congestion, protect the environment, and facilitate those who have bought houses and flats in and around Belfast and elsewhere in getting to the work that pays their mortgages. A fine plan it was too, if giving too much prominence to cars. Central to transport strategy before and under Murphy has been investement in the much-neglected railways. Imagine the near incredulity then with which I read on the BBC website that consideration is being given to ending Sunday trains.

I’m fairly sure this is an attempt to wring extra cash for the railways rather than under serious consideration, though it does not breed confidence in the transport system, nor in the commitment to green policies we have heard a great deal about. You do wonder sometimes what is wrong with some people. Then again, we have always known most of our politicians are clowns, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

Remembering Duke Street

October 2, 2008

October 5th sees the fortieth anniversary of the second march sponsored by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. The march was held in Derry on October 5th 1968, and before it could get going, it was brutally attacked by the RUC from both ends to prevent it marching in the city centre. There are some who regard it as the ‘real’ start of the Troubles, wrongly in my opinion. In the next while, I’ll put up a piece on NICRA and the civil rights movement more generally. The history of NICRA has always been a disputed one (NICRA’s own version from 1978 is available here), with claim and counter-claim as to who was the prime movers in the organisation, what its goals were, was it a front for the Republican Movement under Cathal Goulding seeking to overthrow the state, etc. The fortieth anniversary is seeing the emergence of a reactionary new narrative, one which seeks to blame the civil rights marchers, especially the ultra-left elements, for the violent reaction the civil rights protests garnered from the state, and for the Troubles. I’ll come back to that in the next piece, but my criticism of part of a recent article of one of those making this argument, Simon Prince of Oxford University, can be found over at Cedar Lounge Revolution, here. Today, I mainly want to note some of the activities taking place, and encourage people to attend them where possible.

In Derry itself, the SDLP-dominated but broad-based Civil Rights Commemoration Committee is sponsoring a two day event, the details of which can be found here. The opening event actually takes place the night before, and is the screening of a documentary The Day the Troubles Began which seems to be linked to the BBC and the historian Simon Prince, criticised at Cedar Lounge Revolution. The event itself takes place in the Guildhall in Derry, and includes on October 4th as speakers John Hume, some of the participants in the march, and Mark Durkan, Martin Mc Guinness, and a prseumably very off-message Gregory Campbell. It also includes Mary Mc Aleese. Incidentally, she used to work in a bar frequented by republicans, and one Workers’ Party member once told me how on returning from a NICRA march he had been stewarding and was discussing it with others. She had asked them what they knew about it only to be told they were the stewards. Clearly the republican movement’s desire not to be seen to be dominant in NICRA was working rather too well, and has done so since. I’m not really sure what she has to add, but hopefully it won’t be anything about the Nazis and unionism. On October 5th, the conference takes a perspective on civil rights today with trade union and voluntary scetor speakers, as well as international activists.

Also on October 4th, The Workers’ Party is holding its annual northern regional conference in The Wellington Park hotel. The northern regional conference is a discussion day open to the public, so feel free to come along. The morning will focus on the prospect for socialist politics ten years after the Good Friday Agreement, with speakers from The WP, Socialist Party and British Labour in Northern Ireland. The afternoon will be dedicated to the civil rights movement, with a panel discussion involving Professor Patrick Murphy, Des O’Hagan of The WP, and Edwina Stewart of the CPI. All three were prominent in NICRA, and Murphy wrote the history referred to above. There will also be a talk on the role of republicans in NICRA, and presentations to republicans involved in civil rights, including Eugene Little who was involved in the Caledon protests that led to the first civil rights march, and Eamon Melaugh, one of the two main organisers of the Duke Street march.

All this matters. It was not violence that destroyed the bigoted Stormont regime, but the mass peaceful protests organised by NICRA. In the current climate of political apathy, as governments across the world rush to give taxpayers’ money to bail out corporations while destroying what is left of the welfare state, the strength of a mobilised and organised popular movement is a lesson worth remembering.