Jordi Solé #CatalanCrisis Pt.2

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In Part 2 of our series on the Catalan Crisis, Tony is joined in the tortoise shack by Catalan MEP and member of the Catalan Republican Left, Jordi Solé. 

Jordi is a friend and colleague of former Vice President Oriol Junqueras, one of the 9 Catalan Parliamentarians who are currently in pre-trial imprisonment and facing up to 25 years in jail for Rebellion.

He explains how we got here, the context for the events of October 1st, 2017 and the workable, democratic resolutions to the crisis.

For me, you, the people of Spain and Catalunya (and for 100% for the EU) the solution must to be diplomatic and democratic. Because the EU is made up of people, not trade deals.

Injustice done anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Prof. Joe Haslam #CatalanCrisis Pt.1

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On the 1st of October 2017, the world watched as the Catalan people held a referendum that many involved hoped would be the birth of the independent State of Catalunya. 

As we know, from the images of that day, things weren’t that black and white. Our guest in the tortoise shack, via Skype, is Professor at the IE Business School in Madrid, Sometime Commentator and Proud Munster Man, Joe Haslam.

Now, with several members of the Catalan Parliament in prison on charges of Rebellion, Joe gives us his views on the origins, politics and pawns tied up in the Catalan Crisis. We discuss the internal politics of Spain and how the role the global financial crisis has played in the polarisation of the countries politics and peoples. 

This is part 1 of our look into a crisis of democracy that is playing out today within the EU, with barely a raised eyebrow by Brussels and, we think, asks questions of the EU project as a democratic body that it has thus far ignored.  

Shubhangi Karmakar #Diversity Ep.121


What do you do when your face doesn’t fit? Our guest in the tortoise shack, Medic, Researcher, Designer and Activist, Shubhangi Karmakar tells us of her experiences as a person of colour, a woman, a student and an activist.
Detailing the feelings you are hit with when the message you receive seems too often be that your face doesn’t fit and that despite your work and efforts, at some stage, you wind up be seen as an inconvenience, even by fellow activists.

We discuss how it is diversity that always helps win the day, only to be abandoned when the cameras come on. Tony and I, (two white lads of a certain age) are grateful that Shubhangi shared her experiences and wisdom with us. We all need to check our privilege sometimes.

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Dawn Foster #WhereWillWeLive Ep.112


While Ireland is suffering the worst crises in the history of our State in housing, homelessness and widening income inequality, we are, sadly, far from unique. Our guest in the tortoise shack, staff writer with Jacobin Magazine, columnist with the Guardian and Author of Lean Out and the forthcoming book Where Will We Live, Dawn Foster, talks to us about the globalisation of these issues, the economic and ideological origins and what hope there is for change.

Dawn has written brilliantly about inequality, the need for radical feminism and how the housing crisis, that was exacerbated by the financialisation of the human right to housing, is the best example of markets profiting from human misery.
Dawn was in town to speak at Thresholds Housing conference and we were very grateful to them for arranging this opportunity to sit down with one of the best voices for change anywhere in the media today.

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Mick Clifford #TheDefamationGame Ep.107


When the Charleton Report was released it appears the queue of people claiming they’ve been vindicated is longer than the Donut queue in Blanchardstown. But as our guest in the tortoise shack, writer and award winning journalist Mick Clifford, points out there’s a difference between being vindicated and not being excoriated.

Mick takes us through the report and busts some of the myths that made the most convenient headlines throughout the tribunal.

We also get an insight into the dampener on investigative journalism that Ireland’s highly restrictive defamation laws are and ask the question why the powers that be won’t bring them more into line with international standards.

Please support this podcast by going to www.patreon.com/echochamberpod

Jurassic Arse #AnnoyPeople Ep.91

There are lots of different ‘Twitters’. Our guest in the tortoise shack, malcontent, voice of the Anti-Dublin League and proud Kells man, @JurassicArse aka Gary, came over to tell us why he loves and hates the platform and how “annoying folk who deserve it” is all he’s here for.

From the adventures of babby, to what his predictive text does if he types “the” into the phone, Gary is one of the best (and occasionally funny) people on Twitter and not as hard as he lets on.

You’re Paying

It’s raining. I’m sitting on the small terrace in a small apartment in a small Catalan town. My only company is a small weathervane, a Estelada Flag waving Soldier, and my anger.

The latest homelessness statistics are out and the knowledge that it doesn’t matter whether it’s 10k or 100k people, it isn’t as important to the wider population as the happenings on Love Island.

The Central Bank has issued a report critical of Banking Culture. Leaving aside the absolute failure and continued flaccid performance of the Irish Central Bank, RTE cover the story by ending their report with what can only be described as an advertisement for Bank of Ireland.

The national broadcaster is just as useless at honestly informing the public as the Central Bank is at regulation. The recent hot spell back home has resulted in a capitalist “shock doctrine” attempt to bring back water charges. To this day I’m still yet to see one article asking if there is a link between Teneo, a company with links to water privatisation globally and run by Declan Kelly ( yes, brother of the former minister Alan Kelly) and the guillotined creation of Irish Water.

Hilariously, and yet most terrifyingly, I’ve not seen one coherent counter argument put to the Corporate Lap Dogs of Fine Gael that challenges their absolute failure to do anything about climate change. Only a fool thinks that paying for water is part of a suite of things that can help tackle what is undeniably mess that’s only going to get worse.

Shock doctrine nonsense is used to shrink the public sphere, create markets where none previously existed and make more money for those already at the top.

The opinion polls put the Right Wing Tory Party, sorry, I mean Fine Gael party within a Healy-Rae dinner party of a majority. The only thing more infuriating than voting for the free market muppetry that lives on austerity is our inability to show the turkey the error of voting for Christmas.

It’s raining in Catalonia, or I should say that it’s raining in the Catalan Republic. I don’t know what the future holds. I’ve no faith that the EU would help a nascent state. I’ve less faith that the worlds media will report honestly what happened here and what is still happening today. But the Catalan people aren’t playing those guessing games anymore. They’re acting like a Republic now, with or without anyone’s approval.

In Ireland we play at numbers games, while childhoods are destroyed in “hubs”. We point at Water Protestors rather than our own disregard of the climate change existential crisis. We let big corporate and hyper capitalism devour our resources because our craven politicians plead centrism. Our media are mildly critical of political and corporate authority and then meet them in Lille’s later for a G & T.

Sure why not, you’re paying.

We’re with Jan

The following is a statement from our friend and activist, Janet O’Sullivan.

Peter Matthews used his elected position to perpetuate abortion stigma, which studies have shown has a negative effect on mental health of those who have had an abortion. I am one of the over 170,000 women who have had to make that journey, and who are directly affected by abortion stigma. I am always glad when one less person, especially one who had been elected to represent some of those 170,000 women, is no longer in a position to perpetuate that stigma.

However, as I tweeted at the time, I am sure his family misses him. I never celebrated or rejoiced in Peter Matthews death, it is an appalling thing to suggest I did. I hope that John McGuirk’s insistence on dragging this up at every available opportunity, when given a platform, has not prolonged their grieving.

For the last 8 months I have been under sustained attack from Mr McGuirk on social media, I have had to block his twitter account, he has also used his appearances on national television to harass me and now via press releases. I find this to be most distressing especially as his most recent attempts have included Minister Josepha Madigan and the Together For Yes Campaign.

I am not going to be silenced in speaking about having had an abortion and why we need to vote yes to repeal the 8th amendment in the run up to the 25th of May. I refuse to let those who oppose compassionate health care which is much needed in Ireland try and dictate how I campaign over the coming weeks.

Yours Sincerely

Janet O’Sullivan

Where is Citizen No.1?

The following was submitted by Eeekkk, a very concerned citizen!

I have e-mailed the newsdesk of the indo for years and years and years on many many subjects. I sent e-mails of all sorts not just ‘PRESS RELEASES’. Would I have legs to sue for breach of my privacy cos copies of those mails were shipped outa the country to lands unknown?

I mean I don’t even have to show a financial loss to seek compensation?! See pic above! I don’t have a different set of rights to Bruce Arnold or Geraldine Kennedy?! Right!?

I am in all likelihood one of tens of thousands of citizens in same position. How much money do INM have? What does that come out to divided by ten thousand? Or one hundred thousand? Too late for privacy so yeah – I’d take dollars instead. Even if it was five dollars – or even the price of a newspaper.

I mean the data was taken abroad – that is what it says in the papers. All of it. The e-mail archive of INM.  Maybe nobody came across me in the archive or searched for me or anyone I corresponded with in the archive – but ‘abroad’ to me means in reality the equivalent of ‘disclosed’. I mean – I know that it has passed through the hands of six companies abroad. But it is really very very hard to know who these companies are, who they work for, who and what impact the disclosure of my data might have in the future if somebody that hires one of them runs new searches.

Let’s do a thought experiment. Has data been disclosed if (1) it is handed by one of two parties who are corresponding to a third party abroad in an envelope essentially? Or is it only disclosed if and when (2) a third party (abroad) sits down and opens it?

I think it is (1) above. I think a child would tell you that. I think a test case is needed here. I think that – even though I also think it is too late to get my privacy in my correspondence back. The damage is done. Smoke can’t be put back in a bottle. Even Big Brother can’t do that.

Scary on the eve of a referendum. Scary in the present context. I mean a person centrally involved in this story paid shitloads to have a Vatican Chapel done up and he and another big bunch of ‘citizens’ got their names on a creepy plaque! (see image next page) He has a LOT of data!

Step forward Citizen No. 1.

Don’t get angry with Pig Brother – get even.

Rough Translation “That the injustice of time may be rendered obsolete’

Submitted by Eeekkk

It’s an Emergency

This is from last September. The situation has only deteriorated since. But the solutions are available. They are doable. Now they’ve admitted it’s a national emergency the government can finally take the matter seriously.

There was an interesting development in how the Government has decided to handle (spin) the housing crisis this week.

Following a raw and at times brutal Morning Ireland interview with a homeless Secondary School student named ‘Amanda’, the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, rather than feel ashamed decided he’d side with the poor girl.

Mr Murphy said:

“The piece that was broadcast this morning on Morning Ireland is probably one of the most important contributions to this debate that we’ve heard in the past number of months.

The bravery that they had this morning to come out and tell the country about their particular circumstance was very brave but very important for people to understand what these families are facing.”

The family tragedy compounded by a Minister who is calling this crisis a debate. The time for debating is long gone. It is time for action, real decisive action.

Campaigns like #MyNameIs have raised the consciousness of the general public and the sense that more must be done is palpable.

In reality we have the means to take much more ambitious steps than the planned 23,000 social housing homes by 2021.

More importantly, even with this limited plan, who will be held accountable should this target not be met? Given that only 22 of the 1,500 promised by next year have been completed to date, can we believe in any new plan? Where is the accountability?

The lack of accountability in Ireland undermines many facets of our society. But to just focus on housing we can identify the problem quite quickly.

Unlike many other European countries, including Belgium, France and the UK, housing is not a right in Ireland.

In Ireland, under the 1988 Housing Act, our citizens run into a verbal wall.

10.—(1) A housing authority may, subject to such regulations as may be made by the Minister under this section –

make arrangements, including financial arrangements, with a body approved of by the Minister for the purposes of section 5 for the provision by that body of accommodation for a homeless person,

provide a homeless person with such assistance, including financial assistance, as the authority consider appropriate, or

rent accommodation, arrange lodgings or contribute to the cost of such accommodation or lodgings for a homeless person.

2. A request for accommodation may be made to a housing authority by or on behalf of a homeless person.

The blocker in the system is a small word that covers all manner of excuses. The word is ‘may’; as in the housing authority may or it may not do a,b,c or d.

It is not compulsory, and if it is not compulsory then there is no accountability.If there’s no accountability then there’s no repercussions for missing targets. Until may becomes must and the power to act become a duty to act then nothing will change.

This emergency didn’t sneak up on us either. It is the result of decades of bad planning and even worse policy making. We have gone, progressively since the 1970’s, from State provision to a combination of NGO and Market provision.

Both are failing – for different reasons. The NGO solution is common – the UK for example has a similar situation, with the important distinction that the State in UK decanted housing stock progressively to the NGOs, thereby providing a balance sheet base from which the NGO’s could leverage collateral to fund future housing stock.

The NGO model is endemic in Irish Social policy – the same approach applies in Health, Disability Services and in the past in areas such as industrial schools.

Whatever about its origins – a pauper State seeking access to property and services from institutions such as the Church, it now represents either an abdication of responsibility or, worse, an adherence to Victorian attitudes to relative poverty and provision, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

Without diverting from the current crisis, this needs to be reassessed in all areas of Social policy.

Given the intolerable crisis we have today – 8,160 people(now 9,800) homeless and nearly 3,000 children(now 3,800) – anything less than “The State Will Provide” response from the Government will not suffice. Even if we are to only do so on a temporary basis until the crisis has abated.

There’s nothing in EU Law that forbids a country from acting to protect its citizens. Therefore it follows that there is nothing in EU Law (including the Debt to GDP rules) that can prevent the government from raising money to build social housing.

The “off balance sheet” argument is a red herring. They raised over €5bn to pay off the IMF. To not do the same for our citizens is an indictment of Right Wing slaves to the “free” market ideology. It is an indictment of us as a society and a country.

It is within our powers, as the 14th wealthiest country in the world, to build 10,000 social houses in the next 12-18 months. Any legislative roadblocks can and must be given the NAMA treatment.

Exceptional times call for exceptional measures.

If we can create NAMA overnight, ignoring legislative processes, to stop a Bank crisis and we refuse to do the same for our citizens then any plans from the Third Emergency Housing Summit are only window dressing.

The pressure is on, Fine Gael are rattled by claims that their ideological blindness to the less well off in our country have exacerbated this crisis.

Campaigns like #MyNameIs have embarrassed them and stung a Taoiseach obsessed with his image into action. This action must happen now and it must be on a scale that dwarfs the current 2021 plan.

Time is of the essence here. While things are bad they are about to get much worse. There’s 14,367 Buy To Let Mortgages at repossession stage.

There is no incentive or reason for the Vulture Funds that own these properties to rent them to the social housing/homeless part of the market. This will be like throwing petrol on a bonfire unless our government turns “may” into Must.

We have the means, the finance is available and the solutions are simple:

Make the provision of housing a right, at least until the crisis has abated.

Use the NAMA exceptionalist model to protect the citizens.

Commit to building 10,000 social houses in the next 12-18 months.

Make the Departments accountable and have repercussions for failure.

Incentivise/Legislate that the Vultures make their properties available to the Social Housing schemes.

Introduce a retrofit scheme for the approximately 900 units sitting vacant in Dublin.

Streamline the planning process.

Incentivise the use of over-shop-accommodation for the Air BnB market.

Deliver, deliver, deliver.

Fine Gael are 84 years old today. The Taoiseach used this occasion to remind people that he wants “to build a Republic of Opportunity”.

Well Leo, it’s no good waiting for opportunity to knock when you don’t have a front door. So get building.

Tony Groves