The Elephant in the Atlantic

April 6, 2011

It’s a toss-up as to whether the transcript or the audio recording of the Belmullet Garda Station incident is the more ghastly. Ghastlier still, however, has been the reaction elicited from the media and certain elements of the public at large.

Let us be clear about the content of the recording. It involves a group of Gardaí Síochána broaching, elucidating upon and deriving considerable amusement from the prospect of sexually violating a female in their custody for corrective purposes, in a remote part of the country where the rights nominally accorded citizens are already in effective abeyance.

If that strikes you as a keeper for the Boys Will Be Boys album, then all I can say is that you’ve got the police force you deserve. Note also the vulgar disparagement of the woman in question, and the pejorative reference to her possibly foreign provenance, both frequently identified factors in the psychology and methodology of rape.

If you walked into a staff-room and overheard a group of teachers discussing the notion of physically abusing your son or daughter to general merriment, exactly how inclined would you be to airily disregard it as a spot of confraternal hijinks?

The response of much of our national media to this development has been an outright scandal. This is how RTÉ are headlining their take on the story, the facts of which are fairly unambiguous:

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…which leads one to ponder what further circomlocutory evasions they might have employed throughout the ages…

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RTÉ’s approach, of course, suggests that the fetid morals of Belmullet Garda Station are consistent throughout our ruling class, but it also suggests something equally troubling.

For if the story is to be scrutinised in any detail, the question of why these women were in Mayo, why they were arrested, how the conduct of the Gardaí tallies with a long-established pattern of behaviour in this operation, and at whose behest this operation functions, would be impossible to avoid. And that, more than all other manifestations of political dissidence in contemporary Ireland, is a forbidden topic. Far better to obfuscate, evade and dissemble, even if it means buttressing attitudes which devastate hundreds of Irish lives annually.

Module 14a: Debasement of Language

March 29, 2011

Match the words with the appropriate images from the following pairings:

QUESTION 1

Status Quo
Revolution
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QUESTION 2

Our European Partners
Our European Enemies

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QUESTION 3

Parasites
Victims

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QUESTION 4

Risk-Taker
Greedy Bastard

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QUESTION 5

Austerity
Cuts

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War Capitalism and The New Emergency

March 8, 2011

It is because of the nature of the circumstances, because of the impossibility of foreseeing future developments, because of the need for giving the Government power to act quickly in relation to these developments, that this section has been drawn in this wide manner.

Seán F. Lemass TD, Emergency Powers Bill debate (Dáil Éireann, 2-9-1939)

It is no exaggeration to say that we now face one of the darkest hours in the history of our independent state. To deal with this unprecedented national economic emergency, our country needs an unprecedented level of political resolve. What is needed now after a long period of reckless, ill disciplined Government is strong, resolute leadership.

“Statement of Common Purpose”, Fine Gael/Labour coalition (7-3-2011)

With the dreary predictability of a thirties adventure serial, those components of the National Austerity Front whom circumstance has spared opprobrium have finally torn away their masks to reveal what we knew all along; that they are one and the same.

The tenor of the Programme For Government’s preamble skirts dangerously close to the argot of national-salvation fascism, a fact which might cause greater alarm had such language not been systematically normalised and legitimised by our national media and political establishment over the past three years.

Most disturbing of all is the reappearance of the “democratic revolution” motif, which became an ex post facto slogan of the Fine Gael campaign only after the election itself. The constant stressing of the government’s supposedly cast-iron mandate should put the fear of God in the poor and the vulnerable.

Beyond the rhetorical indicators, there are a few conclusions we can draw:

1: The government is likely to see out its full term.
2: The anti-public sector rhetoric may be toned down, but the offensive will gather momentum with the connivance of a trade union leadership which now has no incentive whatever to stand up and fight.
3: Revisions to the Memorandum of Understanding will at least double the job cull in the public sector within two years. Moreover, the government is aware of this, hence the apparent compromise around Labour’s lower figure.
4: The commitment to preserving the basic rate of social welfare will be finessed by fragmenting Jobseekers Benefit/Allowance into a wide variety of different means-tested and contingent payments, coupled with unprecedented harassment of the unemployed (an explicit manifesto pledge of both parties.) Note that the Programme For Government includes no reference to the previous administration’s scandalous cuts in payment to young adults.

Some of the proposals for local government reform are reasonably encouraging in principle; however, the coalition has nothing to lose on this front, given its joint or overall control of so many local authorities. Despite the superficial steps towards democratisation, collusion between central government, council bureaucracy and local representatives is likely to be even more pronounced under the new dispensation.

For a broader analysis, see WorldByStorm’s exegesis on Cedar Lounge.

Green Party PPB: The Honesty Remix

February 18, 2011

Because the original annoyed me so much.

Dublin in February 2021

February 7, 2011

A video I made after a wee squint into the crystal ball (but enough about Enda Kenny.)

2+2 = Shut Up

February 2, 2011

Remember the soundbite culture? That dread confluence of shrivelling attention spans and light-speed telecommunications which was enfeebling our political discourse, reducing it to a hollow exchange of vapid one-liners?

Well, something strange has happened. Far from circumscribing the arena for political debate, technology and new media have exploded it into unguessed-at dimensions. More platforms, more airtime and more vectors connecting politicians to the public exist today than at any period in history. But here’s the really weird part. Rather than expanding to occupy the space available, this vast playground of ideas, the parameters of political discourse – particularly in Ireland – have begun to contract at a more accelerated rate.

TV3’s Tonight With Vincent Browne is a cult favourite amongst politically-minded insomniacs (where “cult” denotes the intersection of the inept with the eccentric.) As the 30th Dáil wheezed its last, TWVB’s producers responded by placing the show on a war footing, extending its running time to a gruelling eighty-five minutes. This, one might have thought, would be as manna from TV heaven for put-upon politicos perpetually hurried and harassed by the skin-tight deadlines and dumbed-down formats of contemporary current affairs broadcasting.

But not a bit of it. Jostling for elbow-room beneath the handkerchief which covers their collective policies, representatives of Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil typically exhaust their repertoire of platitudes within ten minutes, leaving Vinny B to his exasperated onlooker shtick, before everyone rounds on the sacrificial leftist, should one be present. There ensues for the remainder of the show a protracted and exhausting stalemate, as panellists explore their fluency in the lexicon of meaninglessness which has become the lingua franca of the Irish political class.

The inanity of these hapless marionettes is entirely understandable; where the only politics practised is the negation of politics, only this self-nullifying language of non-expression is appropriate. Brian Cowen did not have a communication problem; he simply had nothing to say to us. His messages were for other ears.

The charge most commonly laid against those who violate or intrude upon this conspiracy of inertia is that of “economic illiteracy.” This notion was discussed in some depth at CLR recently. The term itself is interesting; one would tend to favour numeracy, rather than literacy, as the natural descriptor for a rudimentary understanding of economics. The anomaly is not, I think, accidental (nor is it a simple lapse of, well, literacy.) Because, of course, we’re not dealing with numbers here at all, and certainly not pure economics. We’re dealing with politics, the politics of the allowable.

Let’s pursue the literal-minded path for a moment and consider the concept of literacy itself. Most of us achieve literacy by careful, patient and meticulous instruction, social and private, formal and informal, whereby we become aware of the empirically incontrovertible fact that b-o-a-t spells boat. The literacy demanded of political actors in Ireland is of a different nature; it consists of accepting that boat is spelled b-o-a-t simply because Múinteoir says so. Moreover, boat, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, can be spelled x-v-j-r or z-x-b-p if the moral of today’s lesson demands it.

The “real world” with which socialist demands for increased taxation of the wealthy, public ownership of natural resources and the democratisation of society are supposedly incompatible is a strange place. For all its obdurate faith in its own reality, it is evidently not the same reality inhabited by the broad mass of the Irish people (which at least affords the consolatory possibility that Irish politics makes sense on some unseen quantum level.)

It’s a reality in which the terms of surrender dictated by the EU and IMF can someday be satisfied. It’s a reality in which a country crippled by a brief visitation of moderately severe weather can shed frontline public sector staff in their tens of thousands and continue to function.

If it’s not the same reality which called forth the property bubble as a sustainable basis for a national economy, it’s certainly an adjacent one. Far from Le Corbusier’s machines for living in, the houses of the Irish property bubble were signifiers and ciphers, the painted backdrop to a fantasy world which existed only in the collective imagination of the elite.

But why discard such a useful narrative when you can simply tweak some variables and press it back into service? The from-my-cold-dead-hands tenor of discussion surrounding Ireland’s giveaway corporation tax rate presents just such an opportunity. Here, the eminently prudent course of extracting a reasonable sum from the profits yielded to multinational corporations is disallowed, unconscionable. Because logic is a blunt instrument in the hands of the illogical, the departure of Dell to Poland, where corporation tax is significantly higher, is either regarded as a vindication of present policy, or simply disregarded.

The shrill, finger-jabbing insistence upon long-term economic certainty which follows representatives of the left from studio to studio is never present in this debate. This is all the more jarring because, in this instance, we are solidly within the realm of what-whens, not what-ifs.

What happens to an economy mainlining Foreign Direct Investment to survive when a corporation tax cascade drives rates on the European periphery to 10%, 5% and (ultimately and inevitably) 0%? What happens to a country cursed with the most anaemic capitalist class in Europe when the multinationals leave in the wake of such a stampede, driving wages and domestic demand down as they go?

When all the nuclear options have been exhausted, when there are no more utilities to sell off, no more corners to cut, what then? While state investment, public ownership and planning remain taboo, and the “educated workforce” stop being educated, how will flesh be cultivated on those bare bones? Not even the most idealistic proposal of the most utopian socialist could compete with the chimera that is the “knowledge economy”, a placeholder to fill the cavernous gap between capitalist logic and the unthinkable.

Counterposing the radical alternative to the dark shades and shadows of the Austerity Front is the task of socialists in the present election campaign, but it must be done boldly, explicitly and candidly. They have in their favour the profound and irrefutable truth that the radical alternative is the only alternative.

The Many Fathers of Success

January 4, 2011

Apologies for selfishly vacating my natural position in the revolutionary vanguard these past weeks. I’m afraid my inner counsel of despair led me to the conclusion that The Great Crash of 2008 represents, far from the impending demise of neoliberalism, its ultimate and final triumph. The crisis was a vast stress test, a worst-case catastrophe which confirmed, in extremis, the impunity of capital and the impotence of organised labour, and saw the latter exit stage right for the last time in its present form. Documenting the course of the malaise suddenly began to seem less appealing.

So, with the firm assurance that we are all going to hell and Circumlimina is of the company, let us ooze back into the slough of despond with some thoughts on the fiction of statesmanship.

This, of course, is prompted by the heroically deluded valediction of Patrick Bartholomew “Bertie” Ahern (even his name is a half-truth concealed within a lie.) Bertie, it seems, will be remembered (not least by himself) as the man who brought peace to Northern Ireland.

Historians, we are told, will judge Ahern more favourably than his myopic contemporaries, as the passage of time breaks down the encrusted filth of Bertie’s venality, low tricks and incompetence, leaving only the dazzling pearl of peace as his legacy. This may well be true; historians will, as ever, shape their judgements to suit the requirements of power. Thus it may well be that future generations grow up with Bertie the peacebroker, as their forefathers grew up with Dev the visionary.

It seems to me that the Good Friday Agreement presents us with two competing and incompatible theses – that of peace in Northern Ireland as an idea whose time had come, the product of two war-weary communities exerting slow but irresistible pressure upon those who purported to represent them by fair means and foul; or, alternatively, a thumping endorsement of the Great Man Theory of history, which posits that seismic societal changes are wrought when individuals with sufficient iron in their souls forcibly mould world events in accordance with their vision.

The problem for proponents of the latter theory, in this particular instance, is the motley and underwhelming nature of the dramatis personae. Bertie Ahern’s failings require no elucidation. David Trimble resembles nothing so much as a Northern Irish Alan Dukes, a kind of malignant didgeridoo. Gerry Adams may have seen the winds change earlier than most, but his subsequent flailings have revealed him to be entirely unremarkable (except as possibly the only man in the world with a bilingual beard.) It’s easy to see why John Hume was voted Ireland’s Greatest in a recent RTÉ poll. He’s a D4 radical’s dream, the acceptable face of liberal dissent, who bestrode the political stage like Karloff’s Frankenstein (with brain, but not charisma, intact.)

That still leaves Tony Blair, a man whose stalwart belief in his own destiny was a self-fulfilling prophecy which undeniably infected the course of the early 21st century. I saw Blair interviewed on TV recently, and felt that familiar chill which contemplation of the malevolently alien always engenders. The man is unquestionably a sociopath, inhuman not merely in his actions, but in his very nature. He’s certainly no evil genius; in some ways, he’s more stupid than Bush. Alternative viewpoints are literally incomprehensible to him.

In many respects, Blair is unique among the rogue’s gallery of British prime ministers. Plenty of them have been arrogant, heedless, aloof warmongers, but all except Blair grew up in circumstances which deadened them to the concerns and experiences of lesser lifeforms.

With Blair, it’s something different, some kind of inexplicable psychical lacuna which altered the course of history. There’s something in those wild eyes, those blokily dropped t’s, the unconvincing attempts at firmness and fierceness. Blair is a fundamentally disconcerting amalgam of General Franco and Cliff Richard, and undoubtedly the strangest man to attain fame in the modern era without recourse to incest, cannibalism or Big Brother.

So which do we have to thank for peace in our time? Popular pressure, or one man’s mania? I know what I’d rather attribute it to.

As for Bertie, well, what of him? Ruminating on his legacy is like dissecting the subtextual strata of the Transformers movies, it cedes him too much credit. Bertie Ahern did as the prevailing ethos of the Irish oligarchy and the European Commission required, until his personal appetites and lack of judgement dislodged the baton from his hands. If it hadn’t been him, it would have been some other fucking chancer. Case closed.

The Red Scare begins

November 28, 2010

And who’s behind it? Why, the Pink PDs, of course! From the blog of Labour Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown county councillor Richard Humphreys.

STATEMENT BY CLLR RICHARD HUMPHREYS
Labour Party Councillor for Stillorgan
Friday, 26 November 2010

“UNITED LEFT ALLIANCE” WOULD WRECK ECONOMY – HUMPHREYS

Cllr Richard Humphreys, the Labour Party Councillor for the Stillorgan Ward, has said that the prospect of the hardline “United Left Alliance” holding the balance of power after the next election “should strike terror into the hearts of every rational voter”.

“This collection of radicals, hardliners and Trotskyites are posing as a reasonable alternative when they are nothing of the kind. They are political snake-oil salesmen, peddling an unworkable voodoo economics that would wreck Ireland’s economy for decades. In my view this grouping is an attempt to piggyback on the popularity of the Labour Party and to sell an extremist message in the process.” Humphreys said.

“I would strenuously urge voters not to gamble with their pensions, their future or their children’s future by letting this grouping anywhere near Leinster House. Most of their leadership appear to be candidates who were rejected by the People in the last general election and I fervently hope that the People will do the same this time.” Humphreys said.

According to their website, this grouping’s economic policy is as follows: “We reject the so-called solutions to the economic crises based on slashing public expenditure, welfare payments and workers’ pay. There can be no just or sustainable solution to the crisis based on the capitalist market.”

“Any political grouping that rejects the market – the only economic system which works – deserves to be dismissed out of hand as economic illiterates. Obviously the market needs to be regulated, but this group of has-beens would try to turn the clock back to before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and institute a Utopian command economy which would destroy individual liberty and entrepreneurship.”

“If this grouping got the balance of power with a mandate to oppose any cuts whatsoever in expenditure, including the welfare and public sector wage bill, they would drive the country to bankruptcy and destroy whatever hope there is of recovery from the recession. I see nothing remotely “left-wing” in destroying any hope of jobs or recovery – the inevitable result if this hardline grouping gets anywhere near the levers of power.”

“The other policies of this group would be equally disastrous to the country. Their policy that Ireland should “Give asylum seekers the right to work“, seemingly automatically, would allow asylum seekers including those with completely bogus claims to overwhelm the Irish jobs market, severely prejudicing Irish citizens as well as non-nationals who are legally present in the state. It amounts to an “open borders” policy of a kind which would savagely drive down employment, wage levels and labour standards and would lead to a massive increase in illegal immigration.”

“It would be one thing to suggest that asylum claims should be processed rapidly, and those still in the system after say 6 or 12 months could be eligible to be considered for limited and conditional work permits in specific circumstances. But as usual, the hardline left rejects any such nuanced possibilities and puts forward an extremist policy which would lead to economic chaos.”

“I urge voters to take a long cold look at the extremist policies of the “United Left Alliance” and to reject them as utterly toxic to Ireland’s economy and society, as well as presenting simplistic solutions which are entirely misleading.”

“The Labour Party has worked hard to present an honest and workable alternative to Fianna Fail’s policies and we will continue to do so in the months ahead.” Humphreys said.

If there’s one thing to be said for Councillor Humphreys, it’s that he doesn’t deal in ambiguity. In his attitude to the market, socialism and asylum seekers, he merely articulates explicitly what is implied by the obfuscations and evasions of his superiors. I’m sure the poor and the afflicted will acknowledge that Richard Humphreys SC, BCL, LLM, PhD shares more empathy with their plight than those who have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with them in their struggles against his kind.

Cllr. Humphreys represents the dominant, nay, hegemonic, current within the Labour Party. If its apologists remain implacable in their defence of a party which has stationed itself defiantly on the wrong side of the picket lines whenever the interests of workers, the poor and the unemployed have been ravaged, then their eyes need some kind of industrial-standard descaling.

(Thanks to Cde. Aidan for bringing this to my attention.)

In praise of Mary Harney

November 12, 2010

If there’s one occupant of the Dáil I really, sincerely admire, it’s Mary Harney. She is – I assert this entirely without ironic intent; there will be no punchline – probably the most honest politician in Ireland. I take umbrage on her behalf when allegations of cronyism are directed towards her by opponents on the left, on account of her husband’s involvement with IBEC and his private healthcare-related lobbying activities. I genuinely believe such grubby personal vices to be beneath her.

There is a purity to her vision, to her earnest determination to put herself where she can do most damage to the welfare state and stay there, which partakes of the intoxicating clarity of fascism that appealed so strongly to former generations. Her ongoing tenure in charge of the Department of Health is already widely held to have been an abject failure; she herself would consider it anything but, and would be correct to do so.

She will indeed, as her critics protest, leave behind a health service stripped to the bone, critically shorn of staff, demoralised and defeated, in which ability to pay is the greatest arbiter of life and death. To suggest that this constitutes failure on her behalf is to imply that she ever intended it to be otherwise.

Cowen, Lenihan, even ideologues such as McCreevy, Cox and Sutherland, all act simply to preserve an order of the world which they have internalised by undiluted osmosis. The methodology may be systematic, but the impulse is instinctual. George Bush didn’t care about black people. Brian Cowen doesn’t care about poor people. Geraldine Kennedy, deep down, doesn’t really believe they exist.

Mary Harney, on the other hand, really, truly and dispassionately believes that they must be made to suffer. But not through malice borne of hatred; it’s not pathological, nor is it an unthinking prejudice. It’s a cold, rational belief that the poor are unworthy, parasitical and an impediment to progress and a just ordering of the world.

It is one thing to evince indifference to suffering through ignorance, stupidity or contempt (one might call it Pat Kenny Syndrome if claimants to the title were not quite so numerous.) But to inflict suffering, without malice, without passion, on the scale that Harney achieves with almost her every act in office; that is an awesome capacity which most people simply cannot hope to comprehend. Her closest analogue is Colm McCarthy, but the comparison does her little justice.

Her single-mindedness is staggering. In the history of the state, no one individual (I include Taoisigh in this) has ever left so personal an imprint upon the lives of so many. She has her foibles, of course (arrogance and a short temper), but studiously prevents these from interfering with her mission.

She has endured the disgusting petty corruption and opportunism of a bumbling coalition partner, has even had to hold her nose and compromise with unions she despises in order to keep her project on track. She is, I would venture to suggest, the most hated woman in Ireland and the most hated member of the most hated government in history. To knowingly place oneself in that position without retreating an inch or even feigning regret bespeaks a singularity of purpose which only the truly great and the truly wicked ever attain.

The defining moment of Mary Harney’s career was its coup de grâce. Greater depredations will be inflicted upon the poor and sick in years to come, but they’ll issue from the pen of an IMF bureaucrat or the mealy mouth of a Labour minister. Harney’s final flourish, however, will echo through the generations. Her insistence upon a 50 cent charge per item dispensed to medical card holders was a magnificent and magnanimous curtain call.

The charge as it stands will strain the wallets of only the most wretchedly vulnerable; that, however, is merely a propitious side-effect. It could equally have been set at 20 cents, or 1 cent. The goal was simply to establish the principle of paying for prescriptions. It was a gift to her successors; from here on, the charge can only move in one direction. She herself will not be around to reap the benefits. She will not endure the quiet, desperate opprobrium of pensioners forced to choose between heating their homes and staunching their pain, though none could endure it with more poise.

It was an act of selflessness, of far-sightedness and of cool, clear-headed, rational cruelty. Mary Harney is an honest woman, a visionary and an idealist. May we never see her like again.

HalleULA

October 27, 2010

Get yourselves over to CLR (although if anyone comes here before going there, you really need to have a word with yourselves) for the skinny on the newborn United Left Alliance, a pre-electoral grouping formed in Dublin over the weekend.

From the language and precipitousness of the text released, I’m guessing it’s a PBPA production. That said, it’s undoubtedly legit, and something of this nature has been on the cards for quite some time. Joining the happy PBPA/Socialist Party couple at the altar will be Séamus Healy’s Tipperary Workers’ & Unemployed Action Group, while the West contributes the Declan Bree Commando, based around the colourful Sligo county councillor.

The inclusion of the last-named represents something of a triumph for ecumenicism, as the former Labour councillor woudn’t have pushed too many buttons on the more hardcore Trot wing of the alliance.

It wouldn’t be Circumlimina if we weren’t fully engaged in pettifogging nit-picking, so let’s get that out of the way first, starting with the name. I appreciate the need not to transgress against the political sensibilities of the component groups, but it would have been nice to have avoided transgressions against the English language, too. United Left Alliance is a frightful tautology, any alliance being, perforce and by definition, united.

On a more serious note, some of the language in the issued document is a little bit strange.

The alliance will be open to anyone who accepts its basic programme and aims, but the aim is to attract as many workers and young people as possible.

The absence of the unemployed (arguably the constituency most ripe for recruitment and most urgently in need of representation) from that target group is rather striking. I’m putting it down to thoughtless use of language rather than dogmatic Marxist workerism, though.

In the situation now facing the country, such a party could grow rapidly, supplanting Labour and Sinn Fein, and providing a real alternative to Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

I say, one step at a time, what? Actually, I’m going to shock all regular followers of this blog by stating that I would have relatively little problem with a sizeable, principled and cohesive left bloc supporting a minority Labour-only government on a strong social democratic (i.e., nationalisation, no cuts, bleeding the rich dry and fucking the Commission in the ear) basis, provided they could extract massive concessions and veto cabinet appointments. But that’s cloud-cuckoo stuff, and more because of the orientation of the Labour leadership than the parliamentary arithmetic.

I must note also that talk of “supplanting” the Labour Party concedes them too much credit, particularly in the wake of Gilmore’s parliamentary assault against public servants and the unemployed today.

It will initially have a register of supporters, a steering committee, a website, a media group, and will hold open monthly meetings in all the constituencies where it is fielding candidates for the general election. At this stage 12/13 candidates are agreed, covering Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Wexford, Tipperary South and Sligo, with a number of other areas and candidates to be considered.

All good stuff, particularly the media group, a drum I’ve been banging arrhythmically for some time. We can only hope that the ULA fares better than TUSC, the half-hearted left alliance formed on the eve of the UK election, which died a predictable death at the polls. Even a convocation of relatively small left groupings, sharing goals and resources in good faith and broadsiding Labour from the left, could help effect a significant change to the national narrative. It may be an electoral lash-up, but the true barometer of its success will be in making itself relevant as a force in national politics before the election takes place.

It is also to be hoped that the ULA, like St. Brigid’s cloak, will expand to cover more ground over time. I note the absence from the list of attendees of the Irish Socialist Network, a bunch of natural born contrarians if ever there was, but one with a contribution to make. This is especially discernible on my own native soil of Dublin North West, where the socialist left (the ISN and the Workers’ Party) are operating from a solid base of ~1k first preferences. With one, and possibly two, sitting FF incumbents surely for the chop, and the Labour and Sinn Féin franchisees (Shortall and Ellis) being the very definition of low-hanging fruit intellectually speaking, it would be a crying shame if no concerted challenge were mounted from the left.

Let’s not, to be rhetorically redundant for a moment, overplay the significance of this development. This is not even the beginning of the beginning of the end of the end of the beginning. But those of us, and we are many, who daily choke back back our anger at the desecration of everything we understand to be implicit in the words “society”, “justice” and “compassion” might just have a productive outlet for our discontent. For that reason, I’d urge everybody to register as a supporter when the facility becomes available. You’re not being asked to discard all your personal and ideological differences to accord with a party orthodoxy. You’re being invited to sign up for the defence of your families, your communities and broader society from what even the most resistant to the idea must surely now acknowledge is a fully-fledged class war.

The ULA might be an electoral mechanism for now, but it might also grow legs and become a powerful weapon for the defence of the defenceless. If nothing else, all those involved are sincere about the necessity for such a weapon. And the one lesson all of us have learned beneath the blows of the financial and political elite over the past two years is that no-one else is going to stand up and fight on our behalf.