The Republic of Ireland is a small country with a population less than that of the metropolitan areas of Manchester & Liverpool combined. The next Irish general election will take place in 16 days from now on Friday, 26 February 2016 for the 32nd Dáil (Irish Parliament).
After economic meltdown in the late noughties, the subsequent bank bailouts, the collapse of the housing market, the widespread personal debt crisis, rampant homelessness, endemic poverty and the imposition of radical austerity on the ordinary citizens of Ireland by the European troika*, the country has splintered economically, socially and politically.
* European troika, the tripartite committee led by the European Commission with the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, that organised loans to the governments of Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Cyprus in return for saving the bond holders
In the centenary year of the 1916 Uprising, Ireland in 2016 looks very like it did a century ago. Consider the events of the last week along a range of social issues including the erosion of civil liberties, organised crime, extremism, xenophobia, republicanism, the refugee crisis and law & order.
The Erosion of Civil Liberties - Two Special Criminal Courts
The recent extreme rise in violent crime nationally and gun violence between organised criminal gangs has been used by the Fine Gael party to ridicule legitimate opposition to the illegal practises of the non-jury Special Criminal Court apparatus.
Fine Gael attacked Sinn Fein for their plans to abolish it if ever elected, Fine Gael on the other hand have pledged, if reelected, to institute a second such court to clear up the backlog of cases currently before it.
Article 38, 3.1 of the constitution states "Special courts may be established by law for the trial of offences in cases where it may be determined in accordance with such law that the ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the effective administration of justice, and the preservation of public peace and order." hence the legal basis for a court that flies in the face of normal practise whereby one is tried in front of a jury of one's peers.
Primarily used in the past for dealing with Republicans, since the Good Friday Agreement the court has been used more and more for organised crime, while still trying dissident Republicans for their various misdeeds. Fine Gael are linking Thomas 'Slab' Murphy's conviction at the court to Sinn Fein's desire to get rid of it.
The Special Criminal Court in Ireland has been criticised by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Amnesty International and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, for its procedures and for being a special court, which ordinarily should not be used against civilians.
Among the criticisms are the lack of a jury, and the increasing use of the court to try organised "ordinary" crimes rather than the terrorist cases it was originally set up to handle. Critics also argue that the court is now obsolete since there is no longer a serious terrorist threat to the State. Under the law, the court is authorised to accept the opinion of a Garda Síochána chief-superintendent as evidence that a suspect is a member of an illegal organisation. The Sinn Féin political party have been critical of the Special Criminal Court.
The Impact of Immigration, the Refugee Crisis & Rising Islamophobia
Pegida, which stands for Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West, began in Germany last year, largely in response to the European refugee crisis. Pegida attempted to hold a rally at the GPO in Dublin on the 9th Feb. 2016. Similar marches were held in Warsaw, Prague & Dresden - the one in Dublin turned violent:
"All-Out War" between Rival Criminal Gangs
The deadly feud between the Christy Kinahan cartel (Spain) and associates of Gary Hutch started when Gary Hutch was shot dead in Spain last September. After months of simmering underworld tension, the feud exploded when a north inner city gang (6 men - 3 in SWAT uniforms with AK-47s) connected to Gary Hutch opened fire in the Regency Hotel, Dublin. The Kinahan cartel held a war council in a south inner city pub over the weekend and struck back quickly.
Despite a massive Garda presence in the city they murdered Eddie Hutch last Monday the 8th Feb, 2016 in a revenge attack. Yesterday, it emerged that just hours after Hutch was murdered, Gardai arrested 'Fat' Freddie Thompson and his cousin Liam Roe after a short car chase that started in Crumlin and ended in Cork Street. Thompson had his clothes seized by Gardai after they spotted blood on his tracksuit and runners.
The Rise of Far Right Groups & Reactionaries
Members of Identity Ireland were attacked in Dublin last week while travelling on the Luas (light rail system).
A group of men dressed in black masks armed with baseball bats and iron bars attacked several members of the group.
Spokesman for the group Peter O'Loughlin said "“The most worrying aspect was some tweets sent out by some politicians.
A Labour councillor, I think she was a councillor, sent out a tweet saying ‘ha ha ha…Karma is a bitch’. That is a Government party you are talking about. I haven’t heard anything from the likes of Joan Burton. Fianna Fáil nothing. Sinn Féin – nothing.” The attack received little coverage in the MSM.
Anger at Politicians Favouring the Elite & Imposing Additional Taxes on the Poorest
Richard Bruton, Fine Gael politician and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in the current Irish coalition government came to Kilmore, Coolock in Dublin to canvass last year. Bruton has been knee deep in scandals involving state corruption (IBRC, TTIP), illegal assistance to businessmen (Siteserv / Denis O'Brien) and presided over swingeing cuts to benefits for those most in need (cuts to single mothers' allowances). His reaction to legitimate questioning demonstrates the contempt in which Irish politicians hold their constituents.
General Increase in Extreme Crime - The Kearns Assassination / Kenneth O'Brien Dismemberment
Detectives suspect the "professional hit team" who murdered Darren Kearns last month received a phone call from an associate who had been stalking him and described it as a highly organised murder that involved the use of two cars at very short notice.
Kenneth O’Brien's torso was recovered from the Grand Canal last month and was originally connected to a dispute with Eastern European gang members.
Strained Relations with the EU over US Tax Arrangements
(lifted in its entirety from David McWilliams article)
There are two Irelands: commercial Ireland and bureaucratic Ireland. For many years, their interests were aligned. The commercial angle revolved around Ireland having trade links with the EU but with Anglo/American tax policies for capital; the bureaucratic angle involved being pro-European.
They complemented each other. Bureaucratic Ireland wanted to curry favour amongst Europeans at the top table, while never really standing up for the citizens of the country. So when, for example, the citizens voted against EU treaties, we were admonished by bureaucratic Ireland to vote again. This is not the stuff that democracies are made of.
But now, for the first time in years, a conflict exists between commercial Ireland and bureaucratic Ireland.
Commercial Ireland, the Ireland of business, might have to, very quickly, exercise some critical thinking and restraint over bureaucratic Ireland. Commercial Ireland lives in the real economy, the one that buys and sells, makes profit, employs people, pays wages and is largely held in some way responsible for what it does.
Bureaucratic Ireland inhabits the never-never land of the Dublin-Brussels corridor, which is entirely populated by civil servants and technocrats who have no reason to worry about commercial Ireland because their wages don't depend on commerce. There is no relationship between competence and reward in bureaucratic Ireland.
Consider the Central Bankers, Department of Finance heads and regulators whose incompetence helped destroy this economy. Who lost their job? Did anyone lose pensions? No, they were largely rewarded for their failures. At least the politicians were voted out, but the top civil servants remain unscathed.
The Centenary Year
In 2016, in these complex times, the politicians of Ireland would do well to remember the words of Jim Larkin - "You may succeed in your policy and ensure your own damnation, by your victory"