Irish Blog Whacked

Monday, May 27, 2013


The Only Way To Bring Peace to Syria
By Mairead Maguire
May 26, 2013 "Information Clearing House" - After a 10 days (1-11 May, 2013) visit to Lebanon and Syria, leading a 16 person delegation from 8 countries, invited by Mussalaha Reconciliation Movement, I have returned hopeful that peace is possible in Syria, if all outside interference is stopped and the Syrians are allowed to solve their own problems upholding their right to self-determination.

An appeal to end all violence and for Syrians to be left alone from outside interference was made by all those we met during our visit to Syria. We have tried to forward it to the International community in our Concluding Declaration.
During our visit we went to refugee camps, affected communities, and met religious leaders, combatants, government representatives, opposition delegations and many others, perpetrators and victims, in Lebanon and Syria.
1. Visits to refugee camps: In Lebanon we visited several refugee camps, hosted by Lebanese or Palestinian communities. One Woman said: “before this conflict started we were happy and had a good life (there is free education, free healthcare, subsidies for fuel, in Syria,) and now we live in poverty”. Her daughter and son-in-law (a pharmacist and engineer) standing on a cement floor in a Palestinian refugee camp, with not even a mattress, told us that this violence had erupted to everyone surprise and spread so quickly they were all still in shock, but when well-armed, foreign fighters came to Homs, they took over their homes, raped their women, and killed young males who refused to join their ranks, so the people fled in terror. They said that these foreign fighters were from many countries like Libyans, Saudis, Tunisians, Chechens, Afghanis, Pakistanis, Emiratis, Lebanese, Jordanians, Turkish, Europeans, Australian, and these gangs are financed and trained by foreign governments. They attach suicide vests around peoples’ bodies and threaten to explode them if they don’t do what they are told. One refugee woman asked me ‘when can we go home’? (To my great delight a few days later in Damascus I met a woman working on a government programme which is helping refugees to return to Syria and over 200 have returned to date).
Religious and government leaders have called upon people not to flee Syria and it is to be hoped many will heed this call, as after seeing so many Syrian refugees living in tents and being exploited in so many ways, including sexually, I believe the best solution is the stability of Syria so its people feel safe enough to stay in Syria. If refugees continue to flee Syria then surrounding countries could be destabilized, causing the domino effect and destabilizing the entire Middle East.

Many people have fled into camps in surrounding countries like Turkey, Jordan, or Lebanon, all of which are trying to manage the huge influx of Syrian refugees. Although the host countries are doing their best to cope they are overwhelmed by refugee numbers. (UNHCR’s official figure of refugees is one million). Through our meetings we have been informed that Turkey invites Syrian refugees into the country and forbids them to go back home. It is documented that Syrian refugees in Turkey and Jordan are mistreated. Some young Syrian refugee girls are sold for forced marriage in Jordan. From OHCHR reports we know that more than 4 million Syrians are displaced inside their own country, living in great need.

A representative from Red Cross, told us that there is freedom to do their work throughout Syria for all NGO and the Syrian Red crescent in co-ordination with the Ministry of Social affairs and under such dire circumstances, they are doing their best, providing services to as many people as possible. However there is a great shortage of funds for them to cope with this humanitarian tragedy of refugees and internally displaced population. The economic sanctions, as in Iraq, are causing great hardship to many people and all those whom we met called for them to be lifted. Our delegation called for the lifting of these illegal US-led sanctions that target the Syrian Population for purely political reasons in order to achieve regime change.

2. Hospitals: We visited the hospitals and saw many people injured by shootings, bombings, and armed attacks. A moderate Sunni Imam told me how he was abducted by jihadists, who tortured him, cut off his ear, tried to cut his throat, sliced his legs, and left him for dead. He said when he goes back to his mosque they will slaughter him. He told us “these men are foreign fighters, jihadists from foreign countries, well-armed, well trained, with money, they are in our country to destroy it. They are not true Muslims but are religious extremist/fundamentalists terrorizing, abducting, killing our people”. The government spokesman also confirmed that they have in detention captured foreign fighters from 29 countries, including Chechens, Iraqis, and many others. The Ministry of Health showed us a documentary on the terrible killings by Jihadists and the terror caused by these foreigners with the killing of medics and destruction of medical infrastructure of the Syrian State which has made it difficult to answer the needs of the population.

3. Meeting with Opposition: Our delegation participated in an open forum with many representatives of internal opposition’s parties. One political opponent who was in prison 24 years under the Assad regime, and has been out for 11 years, wants political change with more than 20 other internal opposition components, but without outside interference and the use of violence. We met with ‘armed’ opposition people in a local community who said they had accepted the government’s offer of amnesty and were working for a peaceful way forward. One man told me he had accepted money from Jihadists to fight but had been shocked by their cruelty and the way they treated fellow Syrian Muslims considering them as not real Muslims. He said foreign Jihadists wanted to take over Syria, not save it.
The 10th May a part of our delegation headed to Homs, invited by the opposition community of Al Waar city where displaced families from Baba Amro, Khalidiyeh and other rebel’s strongholds seek refuge. The Delegation saw all the conditions of this city and is studying a Pilot Project for Reconciliation and peaceful reintegration between this community and the surrounded non rebel communities (Shia and Alaouites) with whom 15 days ago an agreement of non-belligerence has been signed through the auspices of Mussalaha.

4. Meeting with Officials: Our Delegation met, and spoke, at the Parliament, and also with the Governor, Prime Minister and 7 other Ministries. We were given details of the new Constitution and political reforms being put in place, and plans for elections in 2014. Government Ministers admitted that they had made mistakes in being slow to respond to legitimate demands for change from civil community but these were now being implemented. They told us when the conflict started it was peaceful for change but quickly turned into bloodshed when armed men killed many soldiers.

In the first days soldiers were unarmed but when people started asking for protection the government and military responded to defend the people and in self-defence.
When we enquired from the Prime Minister regarding the allegation that the Syrian Government had used Sarin gas, he told us that as soon as news came from Aleppo that allegedly gas had been used, his government invited immediately the UN to come in to investigate, but heard nothing from them. Most recently however, a UN investigator, High Commissioner Carla Del Ponte, has confirmed that it was rebels, not Syrian government, who used Sarin gas. During meeting with Justice Minister, we requested that a list of 72 non-violent political dissidents currently detained be released. The Justice Minister said after checking those listed were indeed non-violent political dissidents, he would, in principal, agree to the release of these nonviolent detainees. He also informed us they do not implement the death penalty and it is hoped that when things settle in Syria they will move to have the death penalty abolished. We also asked the Justice Minister (an international lawyer) about Syrian Government’s Human rights abuses, namely the artillery shelling into no-go areas being held by jihadists and armed opposition. The Minister accepted those facts but alleged that the Government had a duty to clear these areas. We suggested there was a better way to deal with the problem than artillery shelling but he insisted that the government had responsibility to clear the areas of rebel forces and this was the way in which they were doing it.
The Ministers and Governor said that President Assad was their President and has their support. There were many people we spoke to who expressed such sentiments. However, some young people said they support the opposition but in order to protect the Unity of Syria from outside destruction, they will support the government and President Assad, until the election next year and then they will vote for the opposition. They said the Doha Coalition in Qatar does not represent them and that no one outside Syria has a right to remove President Assad but the Syrian people through the elections next year. The journalists in Syria are in great danger from the religious extremist/fundamentalists, and during my visit to a television station a young journalist told me how his mother was killed by jihadists and he showed me his arm where he had been shot and almost killed.

5. Meeting with religious leaders: We attended in the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus a prayer gathering led by the Grand Mufti of the Syrian Arab Republic, Dr. Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun and the Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham with the delegate of Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X Yazigi, and clerics of all traditions. The Assembly prayed for the peace and unity of Syria and the non-interference of outsiders in their country. They stressed the conflict in Syria is not a religious conflict, as Muslims and Christians have always lived together in Syria, and they are, (in spite of living with suffering and violence much of which is not of their own making), unified in their wish to be a light of peace and reconciliation to the world. The Patriarch said that from the Mosque and Christian churches goes out a great movement of peace and reconciliation and asked both those inside and outside Syria, to reject all violence and support the people of Syria in this work of dialogue, reconciliation and peacemaking.
The Muslim and Christian Spiritual Leaders are very conscious if the religious extremist/fundamentalists gain momentum and control Syria, the future of those who are not supportive of fundamentalists like moderate Muslims, Christians, minorities, and other Syrians is in great danger. Indeed the Middle East could lose its precious pluralistic social fabric with the Christians, like in Iraq, being the first to flee the country. This would be a tragedy for all concerned in this multi-religious, multi-cultural secular Syria, once a light of peaceful conviviality in the Arab world.


Following many authorized reports in the mainstream Media and our own evidence, I can stress that the Syrian State and its population are under a proxy war led by foreign countries and directly financed and backed mainly by Qatar which has imposed its views on the Arab League. Turkey, a part of the Lebanese opposition, and some of the Jordan authorities offer a safe haven to a diversity of jihadist groups, each with its own agenda, recruited from many countries. Bands of jihadists armed and financed from foreign countries invade Syria through Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, crossing porous frontiers in an effort to destabilize Syria. There are an estimated 50,000 foreign jihadist fighters terrorizing Syria. Those death squads are destroying systematically the Syrian State infrastructures (Electricity, Oil, Gas and water plants, High Tension Pylons, hospitals, schools, public buildings, cultural heritage sites and even religious sanctuaries). Moreover the country is submerged by snipers, bombers, agitators, bandits. They use aggression and Sharia rules and hijack the freedom and dignity of the Syrian population. They torture and kill those who refuse to join them. They have strange religious beliefs which make them feel comfortable even perpetrating the cruellest acts like killing and torture of their opponents. It is well documented that many of those terrorists are permanently under stimulants like Captagon. The general lack of security unleashes the terrible phenomenon of abduction for ransoms or for political pressure. Thousands of innocents are missing, among them the two Bishops, Youhanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi, many priests and Imams.
UN and EU economic sanctions as well as a severe embargo are pushing Syria to the edge of social collapse. Unfortunately the international media network is ignoring those realities and is bent on demonizing, lying, destabilizing the country and fuelling more violence and contradiction.
In summary: the war in Syria is not as depicted a civil war but a proxy war with serious breaches of International laws and the Humanitarian International laws. The protection of the foreign fighters by some foreign countries among the most powerful gives them a kind of an unaccountability that pushes them with impunity to all kind of cruel deeds against innocent civilians. Even war conventions are not respected resulting in many war crimes and, even, crimes against Humanity.


During our visit to Syria, our delegation was met with great kindness by everyone and I offer to each one who facilitated or hosted our Delegation my most sincere feelings of gratitude. We witnessed that the Syrian people have suffered very deeply and continue to do so. The entire population of 23 million people are under tremendous threat of continued infiltration by foreign terrorists. Many are still stunned by the horrors and suddenness of all this violence and worried their country will be attacked and divided by outside forces, and are all too aware that geopolitical forces are at work to destabilize Syria for political control, oil and resources. One Druze leader said ‘if westerns want our Oil – both Lebanon and Syria have oil reserves – let us negotiate for it, but do not destroy our country to take it’. In Syria memories of next door Iraq’s destruction by US-UK-NATO forces are fresh in people’s minds, including in the minds of the one and a half million Iraqis who fled Iraqi’s conflict, including many Christians, and were given refuge in Syria by the Syrian Government.

The greatest hope we took was from Mussalaha, a non-political movement from all sections of Syrian society, which has working teams throughout Syria and is proceeding through dialogue to building peace and reconciliation. Mussalaha mediates between armed gunmen and security forces, helps get release of many people who have been abducted, and brings together all parties to the conflict for dialogue and practical solutions. It was this movement which hosted us, under the leadership of Mother Agnes-Mariam, Superior of Saint James’ Monastery, supported by the Patriarch Gregory III Laham, head of the Catholic Hierarchy of Syria.

This great civil community movement building a peace process and National Reconciliation from the ground up, will, if given space, time, and non-interference from outside, help bring Peace to Syria. They recognize that there must be an unconditional, all inclusive political solution, with compromises and they are confident this is happening at many levels of society and is the only way forward for Syrian peace.
I support this National Reconciliation process which, many Syrian believe, is the only way to bring Peace to SYRIA and the entire Middle East. I am myself committed to this peaceful process and hope that the International Community, the Religious and Political Leaders, as well as any person of good will, will help Syria to bypass violence and prejudice and anchor in a new era of Social peace and prosperity. This cradle of civilizations where Syria occupies the heart is an enormous spiritual heritage for humanity, let us strive to establish a non-war zone and proclaim it an OASIS of Peace for the Human Family.

Mairead Maguire, Nobel peace laureate. Spokesperson for Mussalaha International -

IRELAND - The Old Sow Who eats Her Farrow


1. Angela’s Ashes All of the (alcohol-enhanced) merriment and tacky apparel/tchotchkes that accompany St. Patrick’s Day helpfully obscure a fundamental truth about life in Ireland: It can be pretty miserable. St. Patrick himself fled the place, only to return later to spread Christianity. (True, he was only there the first time because he was kidnapped and forced into slavery, but still...) But even God seemed to forsake the Emerald Isle—or at least Limerick, where Frank McCourt grew up in crushing poverty. His Pulitzer-winning memoirAngela’s Ashes (and its 1999 film adaptation) portrays a life that’s practically cartoonish in its bleakness. McCourt’s family lived in a shambling house—next to the street’s only toilet—that constantly flooded. As a child, he contracted typhoid and later developed conjunctivitis. His mother lost a daughter eight weeks after her birth, and his father was a shifty alcoholic who blew all of his wages on booze (then abandoned the family altogether). The church offered judgment instead of refuge, class divisions were implacable, and the weather made everything damp six months of the year. McCourt writes, “When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood... Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.” Angela’s Ashes spends more than 350 pages powerfully making his case. 

2. EvelynBruce Beresford’s super-sappy Evelyn isn’t necessarily “sobering,” in that it’s such a cloying, irritating, over-the-top film that it’s best approached with a few drops of the creature in hand. Or alternately, by playing a drinking game where viewers sip whiskey every time sad-bastard protagonist Pierce Brosnan enacts a bad Irish stereotype (like getting drunk to express emotion, starting a fight, mawkishly singing Irish ballads in a pub, or exclaiming “Jaysus!” when angry), and chug whenever Sophie Vavasseur, as his treacle-sweet daughter Evelyn, references her belief that sunbeams are “angel rays.” But buried under all the aggressive heartstring-yanking is an authentically grim reality: The film fictionalizes the story of Desmond Doyle, who won a precedent-setting legal battle overturning the Irish Children’s Act. The law, established in 1941, prevented a father from keeping custody of his children without a woman’s presence in the house, unless the mother agreed to the situation in writing; in Doyle’s case, when his wife abandoned the family, the state seized his children and held them in state-run Catholic schools. Evelyn pours on the sentiment, as martinet nuns abuse the saintly Vavasseur and her fellow wards of the state while Brosnan suffers in their absence. Still, it adequately addresses the inequities of a creepy, oppressive system that assumed a cold, mechanical bureaucracy was naturally a better parent than any single father could possibly be. 

3. HungerThere’s sobering, and then there’s Hunger, one of the most brutal films on any topic released in recent memory. Viewers might check it out expecting a dramatization of the 1981 Irish hunger strike that took the lives of Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) and nine others who were protesting their unrecognized status as political prisoners. But the film’s brutality starts early and never lets up, from the horrifying “no wash protest,” in which prisoners refused to leave their cells or empty their chamber pots for months, to the unflinchingly realistic portrayal of Sands’ hunger strike. It’s made all the more terrible by the fact that it all happened, and that the political tension between Ireland and Britain was so volatile that such inhumane prison conditions persisted as recently as 30 years ago. 

4-5. Bloody Sunday/U2, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” 4-5. Bloody Sunday/U2, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”One of the most infamous incidents of the Troubles—an era with no shortage of horrors—“Bloody Sunday” occurred on Jan. 30, 1972, when British Army paratroopers opened fire on a Northern Ireland civil rights protest in Derry, Ireland, killing 14 unarmed marchers. Increasingly violent outbursts between Catholics seeking a unified, independent Irish state and Protestant unionists loyal to England led to the British Army interning, without trials, hundreds of civilians suspected of aiding the IRA paramilitaries. When that caused riots that left 20 civilians dead, the army banned all parades and marches—yet the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association still organized a march to protest the internment policy. Paul Greengrass brought his meticulous, documentary style to the incident in 2002’s Bloody Sunday, which he wrote and directed. The film captures the escalating tensions from multiple personal perspectives, compiling as complete a vision of the day’s events as possible. But it’s U2 who truly immortalized it in “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” from 1983’s aptly titledWar. Bono describes The Troubles in almost apocalyptic terms: “Broken bottles under children’s feet / bodies strewn across the dead-end street,” he sings over Larry Mullen’s martial beat and Edge’s slashing guitar. When the band performed the song during its famous concert at Colorado’s Red Rocks in 1983, Bono waved a white flag while leading the audience to chant “No more!” at the song’s midpoint.

6. My Left Foot The life Christy Brown describes in his 1954 autobiography, My Left Foot, is depressing enough—he’s dismissed as mentally retarded for much of his childhood but really has cerebral palsy, a physical handicap that doesn’t impair his brain functionality. This misdiagnosis relegates him to the bottom of the social heap, the butt of cruel remarks he understands fully. Lay this against the backdrop of the working poor in Ireland of the 1930s, and the scene becomes downright dismal: the Irish Catholic guilt of knowing every transgression will lock you in hell, the bleak economic circumstances that leave his overcrowded family of 15 desperate for coal, eating porridge multiple meals a day. Brown’s mind is trapped not only in his disabled body but also in a society where social mobility is all but impossible. Brown’s autobiography and Jim Sheridan’s 1989 film starring Daniel Day Lewis ultimately end on uplifting, inspirational notes as Brown rises to become a well-known painter and writer who ultimately finds love. Of course, a later biography charges that his eventual wife turned out to be an abusive alcoholic, contributing to his early death at 49. 

7. In The Name Of The FatherThe Provisional Irish Republican Army agreed to a ceasefire in 1997, but was still quite active in the time depicted in the biographical film In The Name Of The Father, another Jim Sheridan film starring Daniel Day-Lewis. It’s the true story of the Guildford Four, falsely convicted for a series of pub bombings in October 1974. Under immense pressure to make arrests following the explosion, the Metropolitan Police arrested Gerry Conlon (Day-Lewis), in Belfast during the explosion but actually robbing a prostitute’s flat at the time. The British police eventually make Conlon and his friend confess after intense interrogation and torture, then arrested more members of Conlon’s family, including his father (the late Pete Postlethwaite) who died during incarceration. Conlon grows from an immature thug into a morally conscious man while in prison, and eventually helps uncover the true perpetrators of the blast thanks to the help of a defense attorney (Emma Thompson) who uncovers files hidden during the trial. But the film’s “happy” ending comes at the end of a long, tragic road that has its roots in a century of Anglo-Irish warfare, corruption, and violence. Conlon might achieve some measure of peace by the end, but it comes at a terrible cost all the same. 

The Magdalene SistersSo-called “Magdalene asylums” (also known as Magdalene laundries) could be found throughout the world, but they were founded in Ireland, and the country is still most strongly associated with them, perhaps because of the influence of this 2002 film directed by Peter Mullan. The asylums were a Catholic home for “fallen” women, and the film’s four protagonists—Anne-Marie Duff, Nora-Jane Noone, Dorothy Duffy, and Eileen Walsh—have either been sexually active or are presumed to be, so they’re sent to an asylum run by Sister Bridget, who keeps up appearances but terrorizes the girls when she feels they deserve it. (As Bridget, Geraldine McEwan attracted a fair share of awards attention.) The women have been thrown into a hell of both physical and sexual abuse, simply because they live in a culture that doesn’t tolerate sexually active single women—even if they’re raped, as is the case for Duff. Magdalene closes with most of the women overcoming their adversity (save for one who spends the rest of her days in a mental institution), but the film paints an unforgiving portrait of a culture so sexually repressed that it would rather hide its problems in a hellhole than address them.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Ireland's 'austerity' is working - for profits

By Michael Burke

The Central Statistical Office (CSO) has produced its latest institutional sector accounts for the Irish economy in 2011. The title would suggest they are among the driest economic data possible - from a long list. In fact they are among the most important data available because they reveal the sources of income for all the main sectors, or classes, operating in Irish society.

This situation in Ireland is not unique and it actually represents a specific combination of general trends that apply in all the capitalist economies. The CSO has simply set these out with unusual clarity.

The chart below shows the profits of non-financial firms operating in the Irish economy (Figure 1), as well as the profit share, that is profits as a proportion of total Gross Value Added (GVA). GVA is the same as GDP, except the effects of subsidies and taxes on production are excluded.

Figure 1
12 11 10 Chart 1

The profit share has been rising since 2008. This is when ‘austerity’ policies were first adopted in Ireland. This is not coincidental. Clearly the purpose of policy is not to foster economic growth. GDP data in Ireland is highly distorted by the activities of overseas multinational corporations operating in
 Ireland who falsely book activity in order to avail themselves of ultra-low corporate tax rates.

Domestic demand (primarily personal consumption, government spending and investment) has fallen continuously for 4½ years and is now 25.6% below its peak in 2007.

The stated aim of policy is to reduce the government budget deficit. However as the separate National Income and Expenditure Accounts for 2011 show from 2008 to 2011 government current receipts have fallen by €6.3bn while current expenditure has risen by just €0.5bn, a total increase in the deficit of a little over €6.8bn despite all the fierce ‘austerity’ measures (Table 21). The current budget deficit is that part of the public sector accounts which ‘austerity’ is supposed to be addressing, yet the deficit on this measure has risen from 2.2% of GDP over that time to 6.7%. Yet this policy will be maintained even though its stated objective is not being achieved.

In fact the total public sector deficit has only stabilized because the government has cut its own investment over the same period, by nearly 60%. This has exacerbated the total decline in investment (Gross Fixed Capital Formation) which has fallen at the same rate. The decline in GFCF significantly exceeds the fall in GDP. Investment has fallen by €23.6bn in the recession, compared to a fall of €14.6bn in GDP.

This hoarding of capital - a refusal to invest - is the source of the recession. A government committed to boosting the profits of the private sector would reduce benefits and pay in the public sector in order to lower private sector wages. This is what mainstream economists refer to as a ‘demonstration effect’ . At the same time the government would reduce its own investments, say in schools, hospitals, housing or transport in order to facilitate private sector investment at a later date. This is the content of current policy.

Investment has declined throughout the crisis, even after profits have begun to recover. The chart below shows the level of investment of non-financial corporations versus GVA, and the relationship between the two which the CSO calls the investment rate.

Figure 2
12 11 10 Chart 2

But another way of expressing the investment rate is as a proportion of total profits. The chart below shows non-financial firms’ profits versus the level of investment. Profits have risen from their low-point of just over €39bn in 2009 to €46.3bn in 2011, close to the peak in 2007. At the same time the level of investment has fallen by €9.4bn (all expressed in nominal terms, not taking inflation into account).

Figure 3
12 11 10 Chart 3

To put this in perspective firms operating in Ireland formerly invested about one-third of their profits before the crisis. Even this investment rate was very low by international standards. In 2011 the investment rate on this measure was that about one-seventh of all profits were invested. This is also below non-financial firms rate of capital consumption, which was €8bn in 2011. They are producing profits but not forming any new capital.

Yet this cause of the crisis points to its own resolution. A €15bn increase in investment would restore all the output lost in the recession. A larger increase would be required to restore the entire loss of investment. The alternative is to allow firms to continue to hoard capital, with all the consequent damage to the economy, living standards and jobs that entails. At some point in the future they are likely to resume investment even on current trends. But that would required an increase in the profit rate and, with the economy stagnating, that could only arise if living standards and wages are driven even lower.

1 comment:

Eamonn Moran said...
Hi Michael
The most important sentence in your article was "GDP data in Ireland is highly distorted by the activities of overseas multinational corporations operating in
Ireland who falsely book activity in order to avail themselves of ultra-low corporate tax rates."

This is precisely correct so drawing any conclusions about the Irish economy based on the profits from these companies is almost meaningless as the vast majority is repatriated.
What am I missing?