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‘Swan-eating’ TDs not doing enough to protect children from ‘asteroid’ – sources


Alan Farrell TD: Swans?

It’s interesting to see this morning just how widespread the conviction is that Ireland’s State institutions are simply impervious to racism in Irish society.

The dominant conception of racism in Ireland is as something emanating from stupid and ignorant people. So in the case of the children taken from their family by the Gardaí, you have people who think that neither An Garda Siochana nor the HSE are at fault, but rather, the authorities had no option but to act when confronted with an alert by the member of the public. It may very well be the case, this argument goes, that the initial alert was founded upon paranoid racist fantasy, but that does not mean that the authorities should have reacted any differently in their investigations.

Let’s confront this argument. If I ring the Gardaí and tell them I suspect the child across the road is going to be hit by an asteroid tonight, will they come out and take the child to a safe place? Highly unlikely, but according to those who say the Gardaí could not have acted any different, the Gardaí would still be obliged to act in this case. After all, the child *could* be hit by an asteroid, so there is no room for discretion on the part of the Gardaí’s part, no room for using knowledge of physics or probability.

It’s only because the Gardaí considered that Roma parents abducting blond haired children is a realistic possibility, despite the complete absence of any evidence to suggest that it is, despite the fact that blond haired Roma children are quite common, despite the fact that even if one Roma family had abducted a child –and there is no evidence to suggest that this has ever happened anywhere- it would be glaringly racist to assume that another Roma family would be likely to do so, and despite the fact that the image of Roma as abductors of children is one long established as part of Europe’s shameful history of racism, that they turned up at the families’ doors.

Let’s use another example. Suppose I ring the Gardaí and tell them I suspect Alan Farrell TD has been eating the swans at Phoenix Park but have absolutely no evidence apart from the fact that he looks like a man capable of eating a swan. How likely is it that the Gardaí will act upon this, and that he will be interviewed? It is very unlikely, because in this case the Gardaí will exercise a degree of good judgment (one which you would hope would also apply if I were to tell them instead about some Chinese man I saw who looks like a man capable of eating a swan, but you can’t be sure).

The point is that no such good judgment applied in these cases because the Gardaí acted –as an institution- informed by racist attitudes vis-à-vis Roma families. The idea that the officers involved acted in “good faith”, as Justice Minister Alan Shatter put it, is besides the point – they operated in “good faith” that wild racist prejudice has a real basis in fact. All the establishment TDs, crime correspondents, former Gardaí and parties sympathetic to the authorities who have taken to the airwaves to claim that there is no evidence of institutional racism in these cases are closing rank and seeking to limit damage to the standing of white Ireland, where racism is only the preserve of ignorant individuals, not the august institutions of State that might be setting up a checkpoint at an airport or an estate near you, to hunt out the ‘welfare tourists’ and other undesirables.

One final point: the notion that a DNA sample is an ideal and appropriate instrument to use in such circumstances, so as to clear up any doubt, is also founded on the same racist prejudice. Does one have to conduct elaborate experiments in order to confirm that a child is unlikely to be hit by an asteroid?


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October 24, 2013 · 9:06 am

Democracy or Capitalism?

This is a translation of an article by Boaventura de Sousa Santos, published 5th June on Público.

Democracy or capitalism?

The relation between democracy and capital has always been a tense one, of even total contradiction. Capitalism only feels safe it is ruled by whoever owns capital or identifies with its needs, whereas democracy, on the contrary, is the rule of the majorities who have neither capital nor reasons to identify with the needs of capitalism. The conflict is distributive: a contest between the accumulation and concentration of wealth on the part of the capitalists and the demand for the redistribution of wealth on the part of workers and their families. The bourgeoisie has always feared the poor majorities taking power and has used the political power that the revolutions of the 19th century conferred it to prevent this from happening. It has conceived liberal democracy as the mode of guaranteeing this through measures that may change over time, but maintaining the goal: restrictions on voting, absolute primacy of individual property rights, a political and electoral system with multiple safety valves, violent repression of extra-institutional political activity, corrupt politicians, legalisation of lobbies…and, whenever democracy proved dysfunctional, the possibility of a return to dictatorship was kept open, something that happened on numerous occasions.

In the immediate post-war period, very few countries had democracy. Vast regions of the world were subject to European colonialism, which served to consolidate European-North American capitalism. Europe was devastated by a war provoked by German supremacy and in the East there was a consolidation of the communist regime, which was seen as an alternative to liberal democracy. It was in this context that so-called democratic capitalism emerged, a system that consisted of the idea that, in order to be compatible with democracy, capitalism ought to be strongly regulated. This entailed the nationalisation of key sectors of the economy, progressive taxation, the imposition of collective bargaining and even -as happened in the West Germany of that era- the participation of workers in the management of firms. On the scientific plane, Keynes represented economic orthodoxy and Hayek dissidence. On the political plane, economic and social rights had been the instrument of choice for stabilising the expectations of citizens and to defend against the constant and unpredictable fluctuations in ‘market signals’. This change altered the terms of the distributive conflict, but it did not eliminate it. On the contrary, it kept all the conditions for inflaming it for the three following decades, when economic growth became paralysed. And this is what happened.

Since 1970, central States have managed the conflict between the demands of citizens and the demands of capital by recourse to a range of solutions that have gradually conferred more power to capital. First it was inflation; then, the struggle against inflation, accompanied by the rise in unemployment and the attack on the power of unions. Then came the indebtedness of the State as the result of the struggle of capital against taxes, economic stagnation, and the rise in social spending in turn caused by the rise in unemployment. Finally came the indebtedness of families, seduced by credit facilities conceded by a financial sector finally free from state regulation to evade the collapse in expectations created around consumption, education and housing.


It went on like this until the trickery of fictitious solutions came to an end in 2008, and it became clear who had won the distributive conflict: capital. The proof? The spike in social inequalities and the final assault on the expectations of a decent life for the majority (the citizens) in order to guarantee the expectations of profitability for the minority (finance capital). Democracy lost the battle and it can only avoid losing the war if the majorities lose their fear, and revolt inside and outside of institutions and force capital to be afraid once again, as occurred sixty years ago.

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June 9, 2013 · 5:52 am

The Femicidal Intent of the Law

chattel (n.)
early 13c., chatel “property, goods,” from Old French chatel “chattels, goods, wealth, possessions, property; profit; cattle,” from Late Latin capitale “property” (see cattle, which is the Old North French form of the same word). Application to slaves (1640s) is a rhetorical figure of abolitionists, etc.

The whole treatment of suicidal ideation, suicidal intent and the threat of suicide with regard to abortion legislation serves to make the woman guilty: they are her ideas, her intent, her threat.

This will not be changed an iota by any legislation under proposal by the government. Such a crisis is rarely, if ever, presented in terms of what it really is: the law killing women by threatening them with a forced birth.

Why, then, do we not speak of the femicidal intent of the law?

Sir, – If a farmer suffers suicidal ideation because his livestock are starving, does anyone recommend, let alone legislate for, the destruction of his cattle? Would anyone remark, “But the animals are going to die anyway”? Surely every effort will be made to save the livestock – and thus the farmer? If I am threatening to take my own life because I can’t meet my debts, should I be entitled to have my debt “terminated”? How then does it makes sense to legislate for the destruction of the unborn based on the suicidal ideation of the mother?

– Yours, etc, Fr EAMONN McCARTHY CC, Freemount, Charleville, Co Cork.

Above, in an Irish Times letter published today, a priest compares crisis pregnancy with looking after cattle.

Then, he compares a crisis pregnancy to being in debt, with the threat of suicide appearing as a threat to the creditor, and you can’t be having that. (In so doing he ignores the fact that many people do die by their own hand because they can’t meet their debts and hence there are many excellent grounds for ‘terminating’ debt).

The plain conclusion to be drawn is that this man sees women as cattle and slaves, and that such views are acceptable in polite Irish society.


April 30, 2013 · 8:55 am