Monthly Archives: April 2015

Fianna Fáil and the Essentially Fascist

This weekend Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, referring to his predecessor Brian Cowen’s encounter last week with several citizens on the streets of Dublin as he headed for his car, described people who ‘blatantly restrict the freedom of movement’ as ‘essentially fascist in their approach to politics and society’. He is not the first politician in recent times to liken developments on the streets to fascism: when Joan Burton’s car was not allowed to leave Jobstown due to a sit-down blockade, she voiced her worries about the “parallels with fascism”.

If you watch the video of Cowen making his way to his car, you may be disappointed at the overall lack of the standard images associated with fascism. There is no street violence. There are no Storm Troopers, no political uniforms. There is no exaltation of a leader. No targeting of socialists, no targeting of ethnic minority groups identified as the national enemy. In fact, there is no evidence of Brian Cowen’s movement being restricted. Indeed, contrary to the ideas of the strong dominating the weak that tend to characterise fascist movements, the people confronting Cowen seem rather concerned with the poor and with homeless people dying on the streets. There are also brightly coloured balloons bouncing around, which seem a poor substitute for a swastika or suchlike.

There is a woman who tells Cowen that “Denis loves you”. This is a reference to the fact that Brian Cowen, the former Taoiseach, the former Minister for Finance, the former Minister for Health, and the former Minister of Labour, now sits on the board of the Beacon Hospital Group, as well as the Topaz Group, both owned by billionaire Denis O’Brien. Rather than welcoming the fact that a political leader has found common cause with big business, rather than being cheered at the thought of swiftly revolving doors between political office and the commanding heights of the economy, they seem quite disturbed by it. This is a very bad example of fascism.

Perhaps the best case that can be made that this is an “essentially fascist” event is the way in which the protesters do nothing to harm Cowen’s black Mercedes-Benz. This is, I am sure you will agree, not a very good case.

Confronting public figures with a demand for accountability when they are conducting their private affairs is not something peculiar to Ireland. In Spanish-speaking countries this is known as an escrache. The escrache is said to originate in Argentina, where it was used to identify and shame people who had participated in the repression conducted there by the military dictatorship. The group H.I.J.O.S., composed of families of the disappeared, of political prisoners, of state murder victims, had a slogan that said: “if there is no justice, let us see to it that the country becomes their prison.”

Also at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis this weekend, a vote was held to maintain the 8th amendment of the Irish Constitution. A vote in favour of maintaining it was passed, but only a small minority of those who attended the Ard Fheis actually voted. But it was party policy already anyway, so there was no need to vote.

Some questions. Suppose the protesters had blocked Cowen’s path and prevented him from getting into his car. Suppose they had demanded he surrender one of his kidneys, on pain of imprisonment, because his kidney was needed to preserve human life. Would such a restriction on freedom of movement be “essentially fascist” in its approach to politics and society? Come on Cowen, give us one of your kidneys, or we’ll put you in jail. What do you reckon: fascist, or not? You know the old fascist formulation by Mussolini: everything in the State, nothing outside the State. Suppose the protesters claimed Cowen’s kidneys, or his liver, were state property and therefore subordinate to the primacy of the group and the welfare of the nation. Would that have been fascist? It certainly sounds more fascist. Not to worry though: Brian Cowen’s internal organs are safe from State interference. He is, after all, a former Taoiseach. We can’t say the same, however, for any woman who might become pregnant.

In his Anatomy of Fascism, Robert Paxton, surveying analyses of fascism, highlighted how one of the ‘mobilising passions’ of fascism identified was ‘the need for authority by natural leaders (always male), culminating in a national chief who alone is capable of incarnating the group’s destiny’. Paxton wisely notes that this kind of thing is present in non-fascist societies too. Still. make u think.

There is a fascism of the imagination, and there is the fascist element to reality. In Micheál Martin’s case, but in Irish political life more generally, the former is conjured up so that it hides the dimensions of the latter.


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Translation: Fear, identity and change

This is a translation of an article by Eduardo Maura, originally published in La Circular, the review produced by the Instituto por la Democracia 25 de Mayo, the new Podemos-run think tank.

Fear, identity and social change

A short while ago I spent a week in the United Kingdom, presenting Podemos in various cities, whisere I was able to discuss matters of major importance to Britain’s political tradition, such as the relation between parties and unions. The debate also got us involved in analysing the link between Podemos and social movements, and, above all, how the spreading and intensity of the crisis influenced the irruption of Podemos.

In this context, one of the most repeated ideas was that in UK there had not been the same level of social mobilisation reached as had been achieved in Spain and Greece. They cited the general strikes and demonstrations, and they partly blamed this lack on the fact that the British left -both the Labour left and other formations farther left- was so weak. They were impressed by Podemos in the sense that they thought it translated these social mobilisations into the language of the institutions, in the political sense (of a party-form) and in the electoral sense.

I said to them that it was not so easy, that this whole social magma was impossible to represent, and, what was more, it was not at a particularly buoyant moment when Podemos emerged. Simply, there had been something strange in how politics was being practised in Spain, at least from May of 2011 onward, when in the squares the shouts began of “They don’t represent us!” and we were all very clear on who the targets were of our discontent. But this “they don’t represent us” left open entirely the field of the “us”. Just who is it that those who “don’t represent us” do not represent? Our British comrades filled this “us” with the social movements, with the demonstrations, with identities that were of course plural but very politicised and coherent. According to the British interpretation, the Spanish, perhaps on account of unemployment and corruption, mismanagement and abuses, had all become activists or left wing -by dint of logic! They needed to fill the void left by the “they don’t represent us” that was shouted in the squares with a different representative artefact: the left, the movements, etc. However, by now it is becoming increasingly clear that this “we” that we are building in Spain is very different, more plural, contingent and unpredictable than the “we” of our British comrades. It is for this reason that we can speak of hegemony, because what is at stake is not filling a void left by the traditional political system with another identity that is perfectly mapped out, but rather the articulation of a social majority.

The end of trust in traditional politics did not alter the electoral balance, or the balance of economic, political and media forces, but rather a certain frame of common sense. From the middle of 2011 onward, what had seemed natural -the alternating between two parties of rule, the narrative that “we have been living beyond our means”- and the things that were shameful but inevitable -corruption, misrule- stopped being ‘natural’ and ‘inevitable’. But from this denaturalisation, or of any specific social conjuncture, one cannot deduce a homogeneous collective political subject. What opens up, on the contrary, is the opportunity to articulate a process of political change that is neither deduced from the social situation -let us not forget that from the same social situation contradictory political movements can emerge- nor is it based on the identities of Spanish citizens such as they were before the political process in question.

An important part of what is happening in Spain these days has to do with this problem of identification, which is one of the fundamental keys for understanding what a regime crisis is, or what a legitimacy crisis is. On the one hand, what we previously did not identify as problematic or unbearable, we now do perceive it as such, hence the powers that be have lost their ability to decide what is significant and what is not, what can and what cannot be tolerated, what names we give to the things that concern us and what names do we not give…what unites us, in this sense, is a negative perception, a being unable to identify with these problems and these explanations that nonetheless still make their way to the front pages of the newspapers. On the other hand, many of those people who, having taken part in this process of denaturalisation I have described earlier, were unable to identify with each other, are now able to articulate a political project at different levels, that go from the most intense collective involvement to the most virtual of interrelations, from voting in open primaries to our retweet of some content or other, from this new common sense, always open and imperfect, from which our everyday conversations at work or at home emerge, conversations we would never have had four or five years ago. It is politics that makes this articulation possible.

At the same time, there are two aspects that differentiate us from other historical moments with which parallels have been drawn in recent times. On one hand, when the decline of the Roman Empire could be glimpsed, the mortality rate multiplied in barely a decade (suicides, deaths caused by what we would now call stress, etc). No-one could imagine a world without Rome, and the end of the world was a more plausible option than a world without Rome. There was, to sum up, a lot of fear of the future: either Rome or chaos. The other difference was expressed by Gregorio Morán in an encounter with Juan Carlos Monedero in the Sala Mirador: in the seventies there was magnificent politics practised, but always with the return to Francoism on the horizon -incarnated, among other things, by the perpetual threat of a coup-. There was much fear of the past. Today we are not free from uncertainty, but we have less fear, and at least we do not have that kind of fear. That is why things can be different. That is why we do not believe in updating what there already is to make it more or less decent -a regime of 78 with a human face, let’s say- but in a possible change whose articulation has become the political fact of our time.

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The Fire From Below

I was at an event last night in Connolly Books in Dublin to mark the passing of Eduardo Galeano. I did a reading of a couple of excerpts from an essay of his written in 1986. The essay was titled The Dictatorship and After: The Secret Wounds. One could pick anything written by Galeano and it would be worth reading aloud, but I chose these excerpts and translated them because I thought they had contemporary resonance in Ireland. Was I suggesting Ireland is turning into a dictatorship like Uruguay in the 1970s? I hope not.

In a letter in the same collection in which I came across the essay, Galeano replies to a Mexican editor about the idea he should write something about fascism in Latin America. Whereas some politicians in Ireland are all too quick to speak of fascism at the drop of a water balloon, Galeano is very scrupulous about contrasting the experience in Germany and Italy with what is actually happening in Latin America.

In countries such as Chile, Uruguay and Bolivia, the dictatorships do not have the slightest capacity for popular mobilisation. The mystique of jingoism, copied from the Nazi-fascist model, only catches light in the heart of police officers and soldiers who get paid for it. These are lonely regimes, condemned to sad and lowly declines. They do not make fanatics of young people: they merely hate them, just as they hate joy and everything that grows. They rely on force of arms and they are incapable of transmitting any kind of faith, not even a fucked up faith, as was the faith of those characters in the superiority of their race or in the imperial destiny of their nations. Our dictators are, on the whole, patriots of a nation that is not their own, satellites of a distant empire: echoes, and not voices.

He goes on to speak of Uruguay.

The militarisation of society does not, in a small and depopulated country such as mine, correspond to some expansionist project; nor does it serve to defend its borders, which are threatened by no-one. Is a war economy generated in peace time? The arms come from outside and the enemies are within. Who are the enemies? How many are there left? In Uruguay there are between four and five million political prisoners. In proportion to the population of Mexico, for example, the equivalent would be ninety thousand people put behind bars for political motives. That is no small thing. First, it was the guerrillas. Then, it was militants in left wing parties. Then, trade unionists. Then, intellectuals. Then, various traditional politicians. Then, anyone. The machine does not stop, it demands fuel, it goes mad, it devours its inventor: the right-wing parties gave special powers and extraordinary resources to the armed forces to get rid of the Tupamaros and in a short space of time the army ended up in power and liquidated the parties. Twenty thousand people passed through the prisons and barracks between 1973 and 1974; torture became the habitual system of interrogation. In the chambers of torment, many men lost their lives. Some had their liver burst by kickings. Others had heart failure when they plunged their head into buckets of dirty water and shit. Others were killed by being made stand still with neither food nor drink for days and nights. Others, it was the picana electrica. And there was a girl who died suffocated by a nylon bag tied to her head.

Then he goes on to conclude:

If all this is not fascism, let us acknowledge that it looks a lot like it. The fascist repertoire of threat and repression is being put into practice, and it turns out to be useful. Not to conquer the world: to crush the internal forces of change, to decapitate the working class and annihilate intelligence. The ideology of petty-bourgeois history is being adapted, like a glove to a hand, to the needs of the regime. It is not the Jews who are the scapegoats of the crisis: it is the entire working class. The regime uses the big characteristic words, Nation, Family, Tradition, Property, to mask the oppression and the horror of dictatorship. Whoever dissents or rebels, is stripped of their life or their freedom or at least has their documents torn from them and they condemn them to wander the world, like a pariah, with neither nation nor legal identity.

We are living in our own time of contempt. The executioners rule and the snitches prosper. For the owners of power, who dream of a quiescent world, history is subversive, because it always changes. And they are right about that.

So, no, I do not think Ireland is turning into this. But this –what happened in Uruguay then- is part of the history of the institutions of our world, and a people that cannot distinguish between democracy, on the one hand, and the dictates of the IMF on the other, are headed nowhere good.

This was the first extract I read:

The model.

With light variations, the same model of repression and prevention was applied in various Latin American countries, in the 1970s, against the forces of social change. In applying the pan-American doctrine of National Security, soldiers acted as an occupying force in their own countries, serving as the armed wing of the International Monetary Fund and of the system of privileges that the Fund expresses and perpetuates. The threat from guerrillas was used as an alibi for State terrorism, which was set in train to cut workers’ wages by half, to wipe out unions and to suppress critical consciences. Through the mass diffusion of terror and uncertainty, the intention was to impose an order of the deaf-and-mute. In the computer of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces, all Uruguayan citizens were classified in three categories, A, B, and C, in accordance with the degree of danger from the point of view of the planned military reign of the sterile. One could not find work, nor hang onto it, without the Certificate of Democratic Credentials that this computer would emit, and which the police –who majored in Democracy in courses taught by Dan Mitirone, a North American chair in Torture Techniques- would issue. Even to hold a birthday party, it was essential to have police authorisation. Every house was a cell; every factory became a concentration camp, as did every office, every faculty.

And then, from a little further down in the essay, I read this:

The response

And yet, Uruguayan culture managed to go on breathing, inside and outside the country. In all its history, no greater praise did it receive than the ferocious persecution it suffered in those years. Uruguayan culture stayed alive, and it was able to give answers of life to the machinery of silence and death. It breathed, in those who stayed and those of us who had to leave, in the words that circulated from hand to hand, from mouth to mouth, in the underground or in contraband, hidden or disguised; in the actors who told truths about the present through Greek theatre and in those who were forced to wander through the world like nomadic comedians; in the banished troubadours and in those who inside the country defiantly sung out; in the scientists and artists who did not sell their soul; in the in-your-face murga groups in carnival, and in the newspapers that would die and then be born anew; in the cries written in the streets and in the poems written in the prisons, on cigarette paper.

But if by culture we understand a way of being and a way of communicating, if culture is the whole range of symbols of collective identity that are made in everyday life, resistance was not limited just to these signs, rather, it was even wider, even deeper.

Obdulio Varela, a famous football player who knew the people and the land very well, gave a bitter evaluation in the final days of the dictatorship:

We have become selfish –said Obdulio, at the start of 1985- we no longer recognise ourselves in other people. Democracy will be difficult.

And nevertheless, the Uruguayan people was able to respond with solidarity against the system that sought to break apart. There were many ways of meeting up and sharing –though it might be the little one had, though it might be nothing- that also form part, a shining part, of the Uruguayan cultural resistance of these years, and they multiplied, above all, in the most hard-pressed sectors of the working class. And I am not just talking about the major street demonstrations, but also to acts that were less spectacular, such as the people’s kitchens and housing co-operatives and other works of imagination and courage, which have confirmed that the energy from solidarity is inversely proportional to one’s income level. Or, to put it in the style of Martín Fierro, the fire that truly warms is the fire that comes from below.


Eduardo Galeano, 1940-2015

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Against Whataboutery

I may not get round to writing about the matter of Kincora Boys’ Home in Belfast and its treatment in the southern media in the depth I might like any time soon, but for the moment, allow me to vent about something: I am sick of the charge of ‘whataboutery’ being levelled –whether explicitly or implicitly- when it comes to discussion of outrages perpetrated by state forces in the North of Ireland.

Such charges of ‘whataboutery’ -whereby someone who points to a particular injustice or atrocity is accused of doing so in order to distract from or refuse to acknowledge their own misdeeds- are a form of moral blackmail. Nowadays, when both the press and prominent politicians make use of it, they generally do so not only as a blatant means of countering the political threat from Sinn Féin, but also as a covert means of exercising control over what questions can be asked, and what questions should be ignored, over which unaccountable sources of power deserve scrutiny, and which sources should remain unaccountable.

In recent weeks, there has been ample coverage in both the British press and the press in Northern Ireland concerning recent developments and revelations around Kincora Boys Home. When I say ‘ample’, I mean by comparison with what has been presented in the southern press.

A Nexis search for ‘Kincora’ and ‘Richard Kerr’ –the Kincora victim who recently appeared on Channel 4 news in the UK speaking about his experiences of being trafficked and sexually abused, and then intimidated by the RUC so that the Kincora case would not come to trial, reveals 19 articles in UK national newspapers, including the Mirror, the Daily Mail, the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, and the Independent. The first such article is on February 18th.

A search of Irish publications shows 17 articles from the Belfast Telegraph, which has been following the story closely, and 3 from the Irish News. There is not one article from a news outlet south of the border. However, a check against news websites without using Nexis shows that the Independent website did carry a piece from the Belfast Telegraph, and that RTÉ’s website mentioned Kerr in relation to a call from Belfast East MP Naomi Long for Kincora’s inclusion in the UK abuse inquiry. There is also one report on the Irish Examiner. By contrast, for the same period (since February 18th), however, in the southern press, there are 136 articles mentioning Mairia Cahill, who was raped by a member of the IRA in Belfast.

On RTÉ radio the other day the parliamentary correspondent of the Irish Times ventured that it would be a strange press that did not go after someone like Eamon Lillis, who killed his wife with a brick and then made off with her money following a light prison sentence. He is right, I think.

But what would be even stranger is if you had a press in Ireland that occupied itself with honouring the royalty and military of another country –as is the case with the current concern including Britain in centenary commemorations- whilst ignoring altogether the role of members of that country’s establishment in perpetrating and facilitating not only heinous instances of child abuse, but death squads, and in Ireland.

Kincora and its housemaster William McGrath are not at all marginal elements of the history of the Northern conflict: they are vitally important to the question of the role of the British State in promoting loyalist paramilitary activity that prolonged the conflict and caused thousands of deaths.  The role of Ian Paisley and other unionist politicians of the era in relation to Kincora, Tara and William McGrath still remains largely open to question –I say open to question, nothing more- and the opportunity for such questioning, upon the event of Paisley’s death, passed with scarcely a remark. Indeed, there were hagiographical tributes made to Paisley by the same people who castigate Sinn Féin for IRA secrecy and cover-ups.

What I mean by explicit or implicit ‘whataboutery’ mainly consists of putting forward the idea that Sinn Féin are in no position to be calling for action on Kincora (or other instances of British State misdeeds) because of their own history. Hence there is no need to call for any action, or even look into the matter further, because to do so would mean collaborating with Sinn Féin’s political agenda, and, it is frequently implied, to actually take the side of child abusers and those who cover up child abuse by so doing.

Micheál Martin, for instance, used a Dáil debate to castigate what he described as the ‘craven hypocrisy’ of Sinn Féin for calling for an independent legal inquiry in the Kincora Boys’ Home, in light of British security force involvement. Leaving aside the fact that it ought to be the duty of any public representative to make such a call, Sinn Féin making such a call, or its alleged hypocrisy in so doing, does not diminish the responsibility of other parties and groups to make similar calls. But very few actually do, and others restrain themselves from saying anything out of a fear that they too will be tarred with the brush of terrorist or fellow traveller. That is, the very accusation of hypocrisy is used to foster a moral climate thick with hypocrisy.

What is most appalling, I guess, is the combination of the fawning over royalty and, simultaneously, the elevation of oneself to a moral high ground through suggestions that one is taking a stand against Nazism in embryo, whether it is Olivia O’Leary or Jonathan Irwin who suggest a vote for Sinn Féin would be like a vote for Auschwitz, or Brian Hayes who accuses Sinn Féin of Goebbels-style Big Lies (neither his own party’s fascist roots, nor the Irish Independent’s past support for Nazism appeared to weigh heavily on his mind when he wrote that article), all the while this whole milieu is indifferent to the near entirety of what victims –whether of child abuse or paramilitary or state-sponsored violence- have actually experienced, or to any possibility of finding effective mechanisms for addressing such matters. Indeed, their interest in such matters only appears to perk up when it is to their own advantage, or, what is the same thing, to the detriment of their enemies.


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Joan Burton’s Ireland: A Guide for The Perplexed

Writing in the Irish Times on Easter Monday, Tánaiste and leader of the Labour Party reflects on the Easter Rising and its outworkings. She believes that James Connolly would be proud of the role of the party he founded, though notes that the leaders of the Rising might be 'perplexed' to hear that the Labour Party is presently engaged in a campaign for marriage equality.

Personally I'm tired of imagining how James Connolly or James Larkin or anyone else might look upon present developments. But I am going to linger on this point for a moment anyway.

On countless occasions in recent years I have heard the idea expressed that Connolly and Larkin must be spinning in their graves at the deeds of the present day Labour Party. I'm tired of this. For one, it appears to suppose that Connolly and Larkin would not have had the sufficient intelligence to understand that institutions can change radically over time, and that just because an institution bears the same name does not mean that it remains the same thing.

What is more, even if these men are spinning in their graves, this has zero effect on the world of the living. “Don't mourn – organize!” is an injunction associated in popular memory with Joe Hill, another member of the Industrial Workers of the World, whose funeral Larkin attended. We can be certain that both Connolly and Larkin would identify far more with this than with the act of invoking the spirits of the dead without bothering to work out what it is that the living need to do.

But assuming that James Connolly were incapable of distinguishing between the Labour Party as he hoped it would be and how it actually turned out, why would he or others be perplexed at the campaign for marriage equality? Such a perplexity, I suggest, would not be the substance of the campaign itself but more on account of the fact that it is being undertaken in a context where it is largely uncontroversial and requires minimal conflict with the forces of capital.

Indeed, marriage equality is by and large seen as beneficial to capitalism. One only has to look at the list of firms supporting marriage equality in the US to realise this. Moreover, whilst the Labour Party has been supporting marriage equality -and it is of course right to do so- it has taken part in a right-wing government, campaigned to constitutionalise neoliberal economic policies, introduced schemes to undermine the principle of paid labour, and, whilst demonising campaigners against the same water charges that they themselves said they would oppose, has abandoned any pretence of international solidarity with working class populations in other European countries, clinging firmly to the righteousness of EU political and economic elites. I could go on, but I'm tired of this right now too.

What Connolly might find more perplexing, at least as far as the leader of the Labour Party is concerned, is her claim that 'if we consider the violent tumult of the 20th century, Ireland has stood as a beacon of stability'.

A commonsensical reading of this statement would treat it as utter garbage. How could a country be a 20th Century beacon of stability whilst including in its history, among other events: the Belfast 1910 strike; the 1913 Dublin Lockout; the UVF; the Curragh Mutiny; the Irish Volunteers, the gun-running and Bachelors Walk; the Great War (thousands of Irish killed); the Easter Rising, the War of Independence, the Limerick Soviet, the Civil War, the Northern pogroms, the Magazine Fort raid, the Belfast Blitz (the greatest loss of life in a night's raid outside of London), the Northern 'Troubles' that left thousands dead, with perhaps the longest urban guerrilla war of the century in Europe, and the campaign conducted by loyalist death squads, including the Dublin-Monaghan bombings?

But we are dealing here with a very particular conception of 'Ireland'. What Joan Burton means by 'Ireland' is the southern State known as the Republic of Ireland. Clearly she takes no account of events north of the border post-partition as pertaining to 'Ireland'. It's worth noting, however, that she does not always use this conception of 'Ireland': in a recent televised debate with Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, Burton quoted James Connolly. Here is Connolly’s quote in full.

'Ireland without her people is nothing to me, and the man who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for ‘Ireland’, and can yet pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and the suffering, the shame and the degradation wrought upon the people of Ireland, aye, wrought by Irishmen upon Irishmen and women, without burning to end it, is, in my opinion, a fraud and a liar in his heart, no matter how he loves that combination of chemical elements which he is pleased to call ‘Ireland’.

In Burton's head-to-head with Adams, she used this quote to blame Adams for the fact that the Provisional IRA campaign in the North had killed people of Ireland. So a more expansive conception of 'Ireland' applies when expedient, such as when it comes to countering the political threat posed by Sinn Féin -witness the sudden concern for the education of children in the North these days, or the job prospects for residents of West Belfast- but not when writing about the Easter Rising for a southern readership.

However, in a certain sense, Burton is correct. Ireland -the State- is a beacon of stability for a certain type of person. For all its treatment as a sacred document on account of the democratic aspirations it expresses, the Proclamation is also the declaration of the foundation of a State. It treats 'the Republic' and 'the State' as one and the same. With its emphasis on sovereignty, it provides a template for the parliamentary absolutism that has shaped political life in the Irish State, whereby, as Juan Domingo Sánchez pointed out recently, the multitude delegates its political agency to a sovereign (which can be a people's assembly or a King) and is hence deprived of any political right. In this sense, the repressive apparatuses of the southern State have been immensely effective in securing stability, but for its ruling élites, those who say, in effect, l'État, c'est nous, and it has done so under the cover of democracy.

Burton claims that ‘we [who is this ‘we’, precisely?] retained democracy and rule by law since our foundation’.

As I've written elsewhere, such a view of Irish democracy omits certain inconvenient facts: an array of brutal carceral institutions -industrial schools, slave laundries and psychiatric hospitals; wide-ranging censorship; impunity for corruption and fraud by the rich; the longstanding privileges afforded to financiers and property speculators at the cost of the public welfare; the systematic evacuation of poorer sectors of society through the safety valve of emigration and their subsequent loss of the political franchise; the neglect and abuse of children; a constitution that guarantees the subjection of women and enforces drastic restrictions on their reproductive rights; meagre and judgmental welfare state and a public culture that prizes charity over solidarity; decisions made by unaccountable cliques.

But sure it was all done under ‘rule by law’, so that’s ok. Isn’t it?

Burton writes that the Rising commemorations should not 'serve the agenda of any sectional interest or political cause'. What this really means, of course, is that the commemorations should not serve any sectional interest other than those of Ireland's power elites and golden circles, or any political cause inimical to those interests.

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