Beacons of Human Rights

There are 10.3 million people in Haiti. The UN estimates that there are 130,000 people living with HIV there, of whom some 9,500 are children under 14.

There are 11.3 million people in Cuba. The UN estimates that there are 22,000 people living with HIV there, of whom less than 100 are children under 14. The prevalence rate among adults aged 15 to 49 is estimated at 0.3%. In Haiti it is 1.7%.

One of the biggest private investors in Haiti is Digicel, mostly owned by Denis O’Brien. Denis O’Brien, though an Irish citizen, is resident in Malta as he does not wish to pay more tax in Ireland. He owns newspapers and radio stations in Ireland, all of which spread the common sense that the country should be run like a business, that low corporation taxes are proper order, that public services should be privatised, and that public sector workers hold the country to ransom. The Beacon Hospital group, also owned by Denis O’Brien, is part of a major provider of private healthcare in Ireland.

Strangely enough, we do not hear a great deal in Ireland about the human rights of people with HIV in Haiti.


Beacon: Ireland’s capitalist paradise

The Beacon Hospital group has a hospital in Sandyford, built during the so-called ‘Celtic Tiger’ years, with tax break investments and Ulster Bank debt. Former Taoiseach and minister for health, Brian Cowen, is a non-executive director of the Beacon Hospital group. Its Deputy CEO, Brian Fitzgerald, was previously CEO of St. James’s Hospital, a public hospital. Its Chairman, Colm Doherty, was appointed managing director of AIB bank in November 2009, following the €21bn State bailout of the bank. He was paid €432,000 in salary, €707,000 in a termination payment, and a cash payment of €2m, following his ten months in charge.

Strangely enough, there is not much in the press as to why Ireland does not have universal healthcare.

The plain facts of Ireland’s two-tier health system -foremost among these the fact that wealth determines your health- seldom make headline news. We hear stories broadcast of its disasters, and in many cases these are followed by advertisements for the Beacon Hospital or the Blackrock Clinic. It all appears to have nothing to do with human rights.

What has made headline news, in the past two days, is Michael D Higgins’s -perfectly sensible and correct- statement on Fidel Castro’s passing. Apparently Cuba’s human rights record is the problem. The concern with human rights anywhere, on the part of Ireland’s media and political establishment, is news in itself. It is hard to recall any questions raised about Britain’s human rights record in Ireland -its death squads, its torture of prisoners, its shoot-to-kill policies- when the British head of state was given a lavish reception back in 2011. Nor for that matter when the Saudi flag was flown at half mast on official buildings following the death of its head of state. Well, questions were raised, but only by those habitually classified as troublemakers and malcontents. And they were ignored. As for Shannon Airport, used to transport prisoners to Cuba for torture -but in Guantánamo Bay- well, the rights of local people to sell sandwiches to US troops have to be borne in mind.

Whatever about Cuba and Fidel Castro, anything that appears as a challenge to capitalism, in capitalist societies, will either be demonised or incorporated by the mass media and commercial firms. It was not so long ago that a private health insurance provider in Ireland -Vivas- (even the name suggests a rally of revolutionaries) ran a TV ad campaign advertising its products, which, let us recall, are designed to allow people with money to skip the queue for healthcare, with a Fidel-like figure announcing a revolution in healthcare, to the acclaim of cheering crowds. No human rights concerns were raised.

You see, the current manufactured outrage about Michael D Higgins marking the death of Fidel Castro has absolutely nothing to do with a concern for human rights in Cuba and everything to do with making sure that the public at large doesn’t start getting any crazy ideas about socialism that an informed discussion might arouse.

Across the water, meanwhile, it appears that BBC news is, like its Irish counterpart, far more devoted to the question of human rights in Cuba than ever it was to the question of human rights in that part of the UK where its government ran death squads and tortured prisoners. I note it is far more devoted to the question of human rights in Cuba than ever it was to the British government’s plans for the UK army to opt out of the European convention on human rights. I see them, and I see all the grandstanding media commentators and columnists with Oxbridge degrees masquerading as the guardians of true left values. They all deserve to be swept away by a hurricane, like the one in the final pages of One Hundred Years of Solitude.

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