Posts Tagged ‘Ireland’

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This week marks the 100th anniversary of the world-historic Easter Rising in Ireland. And, here in the United States, we’re getting quite an education—first, with 1916 The Irish Rebellion, a big, lavishly produced slab of prestige television (with none other than Liam Neeson as the narrator), available on 120 television stations in the United States and on the BBC; then, on Sundance, with Rebellion, a soap-operaish version of the same events; and, finally,  A Full Life: James Connolly the Irish Rebel, a graphic remembrance of socialist agitator, editor, and author Connolly illustrated by artist Tom Keough.*

I’ve only seen the two television series, so I can’t comment on Keough’s book.

In my view, 1916 The Irish Rebellion does an excellent job of providing the necessary background (at least for those of us lacking the basic, Irish secondary-school-book knowledge of the events—although it tends to exaggerate the U.S. connection (highlighted in the trailer) and to downplay the egalitarian and socialist impulses in the Rising’s anti-imperialism (which, I presume, the Connolly book serves to correct). And while Rebellion is more an intimate recreation than a documentary (and does take historical liberties and shortcuts in dramatizing, I would say melodramatizing, the events), it does highlight the role of women among the forces for and against Irish independence.

Still, both television series serve to shine a spotlight on the short-lived and ultimately failed rebellion that showed to the rest of Ireland (beyond Dublin), the British Empire (for which this was the beginning of the end), and the rest of the world (in a wide variety of socialist, communist, and national-liberation movements) that the dream of making and changing history was embodied by and yet could not be contained within the “terrible beauty” of 1916.**

 

*Here’s the appropriate disclaimer: while 1916 The Irish Rebellion was largely financed by the University of Notre Dame and written by Notre Dame professor Bríona Nic Dhiarmada, I played no role in the creation or dissemination of the documentary.

**It is precisely that terrible beauty that is taken up in Ken Loach’s film, Jimmy’s Hall, which takes place in 1932 and focuses on the post-1916 political tensions among the Catholic church, the state, the landowners, and the republican movement.

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From today’s New York Times:

Until now, Ireland had been the poster child for German-led austerity policies. Its citizens offered little resistance as their government — grappling with huge debts from the country’s failed banks — introduced new taxes and increased old ones, even while laying off workers and slashing health and welfare benefits.

In recent months, however, the Irish have been anything but quiet. The prospect of paying for water, which many see as yet another new tax at a time when the government has assured them that austerity is over, has prompted a series of mass protests across the country, from Dublin to Cork. Many demonstrators say they have no intention of paying the new fees.

Austerity in Europe is working.

Working, that is, to the benefit of employers—because many people are not working, and workers in both the private and public sectors are being squeezed.

New data from Société Générale’s Cross Asset Research/Economics group (as presented by FT Alphaville) indicate that unit labour costs—basically, wages and productivity—have been falling quite rapidly in southern Europe (especially Greece, Spain, and Portugal) and Ireland.

SocGen’s Michel Martinez writes that there are outright wage declines in Greece while in the other peripherals, labour productivity (as measured by ULC) is outpacing wage gains. Hence:

This suggests that wage growth has come in line with sustainable productivity gains. The key conclusion is that erosion of ULC imbalances does not necessarily need to take a decade.

So, yes, austerity is working—and workers are the ones who are losing out.

P.S. I refer here to the effects of austerity, the combination of economic depression, unemployment, and cutting government programs that leads to declines in unit labor costs based on growing productivity and stagnant or declining wages. The euphemisms invoked in mainstream economic and political circles are “internal devaluation” and “labor cost rebalancing.”

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The view from Ireland

Posted: 6 December 2011 in Uncategorized
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The present situation contains elements reminiscent of policy during the Great Depression, when a mounting crisis was confronted by an orthodoxy that resulted in great poverty that could have been avoided. Without decisive intervention the eurozone economies will be seriously constrained, will grow very poorly and make the resolution of the debt crisis more difficult.

Economic and Social Research Institute, “Executive Summary,” Quarterly Economic Commentary (Autumn 2011)

 

An old friend from graduate school, Terence McDonough, presented his program of economic alternatives at this past weekend’s national convention of Ireland’s United Left Alliance:

Terence McDonagh, an economist from NUI Galway, told more than 400 delegates from around the country who attended the convention in Dublin on Saturday that five measures implemented simultaneously over a 48-hour period would reinvigorate the economy.

The alliance’s forum focused on its future and how it might develop into a national party.

Formed before the last general election, the alliance comprises the Socialist Party, the People Before Profit group and the Workers and Unemployed Action Group as well as some independent members.

Prof McDonagh said he wished to propose a radical economic programme to address the economic “depression”. He said the country should default on its debt, leave the euro, build a single public bank, provide a jobs guarantee for all workers and nationalise the Corrib gas field.

By 2014, the State would owe €200 billion, €80 billion of which was to bail out the European banking system, he said.

A further €80 billion was attributable to “the elite’s refusal” to tax itself. “Irish working people and poor people cannot pay, shouldn’t have to pay and sooner or later won’t pay,” he said.