December 2013


On 15 November the winners of the ‘Space Invaders Dublin’ competition to redevelop a vacant lot on Thomas Streets were announced. According to the Irish Times, the winning proposal offered “a mixed-use development with a large digital wall at the centre of an open space on the site which will be a tourist attraction in itself and also a showcase for companies using it”.

In the same article , it was announced that the Digital Hub Development Agency, the state agency which owns the vacant site, is considering “allowing artists and cultural bodies to use existing derelict buildings on the site to help regenerate the area”. Ronan Tynan*, property manager for the Digital Hub noted that “We are trying to get something together to get us to the next stage if parties are interested in using it, but there is a cost for even temporary use. We’ve got to see if it is feasible money wise.”

The interesting point illustrated here is the desire to use artists and cultural groups to help redevelop a site. It is noted that the currently derelict buildings which have no heating, water or lighting would require a lot of work to provide even a “basic level of services” and that there would be a cost for even temporary use- though it is not clear how this cost would be shared between the Digital Hub and the user groups.

It is unclear if users will be expected to pay a rent, but the intention remains: to use groups known to be under-resourced to inhabit and work in spaces with a basic level of services in order to add value to a site. The arts and cultural groups will be facilitated until they have added enough value to the site, they will then be replaced, likely, by higher-end and more profitable uses.

That this process is allowed to be presented as an act of altruism towards arts and cultural groups rather than the act of exploitation is telling of the scarce opportunities available to these groups, as well as the uncritical eye through which the media views urban redevelopment. In my thesis ‘Crises without Retail: A Street Level Approach to a Global System‘, among other approaches I examined the role that temporary uses have played in efforts to relieve vacancy was. From that research I found a popular association between arts and cultural groups utilising derelict or unused spaces. Such an arrangement gives these groups a space to work and organise from, which they may not be able to acquire conventionally. Traditionally, where capitalism cannot find a profitable use for a space, it lets it depreciate until the rent gap widens or more profitable markets saturate and the space can be traded or developed. This process can be accelerated by managing the organic response arts and cultural groups have to seek out space with a low exchange value, but still with a feasible use value.

In valuing space based on use value and with little ability to acquire space based on exchange value, abandoned or dilapidated spaces are often sought by arts and cultural groups and their use tolerated or even facilitated by land owners or city authorities. The problem is that the work of artistic and cultural groups is rightly valued by people when choosing where to live, and as these types of uses grow in an area the opportunity for gentrification ripens. With this the possibility of displacement for the arts and cultural groups as well as other residents looms.

A difficulty in critically exploring the dynamics of temporary use (see the discussions over Granby Park previously presented on this blog) is the amount of good will that often features. To help understand the actions of the relevant actors it is helpful to distinguish between ‘consent’ and ‘compliance’ with the underlying processes of urban development and the wider system of capitalism.

Where land owners concede to discounts and alternative uses due to having their property vacant they are helping arts and cultural groups as well as offering residents a new amenity. Despite this they are still compliant with the same system that made their property empty and makes access to space for arts and cultural uses infeasible in the first place.

The arts and cultural groups who accept and seek out temporary uses are compliant too, once the space they are offered is prime for redevelopment they will have to leave and the ability of other residents to stay will also be threatened –  this they do not consent to. Though arts and cultural groups would prefer more secure and more purposely designed spaces to work in, these are not always available so they take what they can get. Where these groups once sought alternative uses for abandoned spaces they are now offered, sometimes at a cost, the use of spaces explicitly as part of a redevelopment strategy that may lead to displacement.

Those who are both compliant and consenting are another story. The plan to provide temporary spaces to arts and cultural users on the lands of the Digital Hub, allowed to remain derelict while in the ownership of the state for 12 years, and the media that presents such an act as gracious are more clear cut players.

The arts and cultural sector need real supports and sustained access to purposely designed spaces and it is important that that is made clear to those with the power to provide those spaces. The incorporation of temporary uses or alternative uses of spaces as part of the development process is testament to the value arts and cultural uses provide. At the same time, people who live in an area and add value to it through the community they build also deserve protection from gentrification aided by the latter uses. But the nature of value has been so disturbed that those who add value to places and spaces are not rewarded, but instead are expected to be grateful for the privilege of helping others make money and in keeping a system that devalues them working.

*An attempt was made to contact Ronan Tynan via the Digital Hub, seeking more information on any plans for temporary uses, with no reply.

Liam Duffy recently graduated from the 4Cities UNICA Euromaster in Urban Studies. His interests include retail planning, urban economic policy, brownfield development as well as arts and cultural policy. He is currently in Copenhagen and looking for employment and other opportunities in Denmark and further afield. He can be contacted at Lmtduffy@gmail.com

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Following on from my earlier post on developing scenarios for Ireland’s future, last week saw the publication by the CSO of new regional population projections for Ireland. The latest CSO projections present how the population of the regions may evolve under different scenarios by making assumptions about future trends in migration (both internal and external) and fertility.

In the context of regional development in Ireland, this latest release from the CSO is crucial as all current regional planning policy together with the settlement strategies of all local authorities are currently based on population targets (including those of ‘Gateways’ and ‘Hubs’) originally derived from the previous set of population projections issued by the CSO in 2008.

The CSO projects that, if internal migration patterns return to the traditional pattern last observed in the mid-1990s, the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) will continue to see its population significantly increase by just over 400,000 by 2031 which will account for two-thirds of the total projected population growth in the State over this period. As observed in the post below, this pattern appears  not only to be re-emerging but rapidly intensifying as the Government increasingly focuses its attention on a FDI led job creation strategy which favours agglomeration economies i.e. Dublin and to a lesser extent Cork and Galway.

Chart

In a marked change from the 2008 release, which projected that the population of Dublin would decline by just over 100,000 and that of the Mid-East increase substantially by over 350,000, the population of Dublin is now projected to increase by between 96,000 and 286,000 depending on the scenario applied, while the population of the Mid-East is set to increase more modesty by between 78,000 and 144,000. These trends would have profound implications for spatial planning, housing policy and infrastructure delivery in the capital.

While all regions are projected to experience net population growth, apart from Dublin and the Mid-East all regions will lose population to internal migration and population growth will be primarily driven by natural increase (i.e. birth rate). This will be most noticeable in the Border region with, under one scenario,  projected births of 123,000 and a population increase of just 18,000, and the West which shows projected births of 97,000 and a population increase of  just 15,000. In fact, under some scenarios the Border, West, Mid-West regions are projected to experience population decline regardless of the internal migration pattern applied.

Overall, the CSO projections paint a familiar picture with Dublin and the Mid-East gaining a higher share of the national population (particularly of younger and more highly educated persons) with everywhere else generally losing share. These demographic trends present a key national and regional development challenge and far-reaching questions for planning practice*. Depopulation and changing population structure implies severe impacts on every domain of urban and regional development, including local authority budgets, infrastructure and amenities, housing market and housing mobility, labour market and employment, residential composition, and social inclusion and cohesion – the entire basis of regional planning policy.

More generally, current and projected population trends highlight the urgent need for a new National Spatial Strategy and to transition beyond the current ‘performance of seriousness’ in relation to balanced regional development.

Gavin Daly

 *See Daly, Gavin and Kitchin, Rob (2013) Shrink smarter? Planning for spatial selectivity in population growth in Ireland. Administration, 60 (3). pp. 159-186. ISSN 0001-8325

A New paper by Julien Mercille has been published in the Cambridge Journal of Economics. It is available here: CJE Mercille published 2013

Abstract:

A number of European countries have implemented austerity programmes since the onset of the current economic crisis. This paper focuses on fiscal consolidation, a central aspect of such programmes, using the case of Ireland. It investigates the significant role of the mass media in presenting such policies to the public, a role which has so far remained unexamined. Conceiving of the Irish experience over the past few decades as a case of neoliberalisation, it uses a critical political economic conceptualisation of news organisations to consider 431 editorials and opinion articles discussing fiscal consolidation in three leading Irish newspapers between 2008 and 2012. It finds that the majority of articles present viewpoints in favour of fiscal consolidation and display a preference for spending cuts over tax hikes, which substantiates the claim that Ireland has adopted neoliberal policies to address the crisis. Only a minority of articles oppose fiscal consolidation. These mostly contest specific spending cuts but usually fail to criticise fiscal consolidation itself by calling for economic alternatives, such as Keynesian stimulus. Differences between newspapers are also discussed, highlighting their ideological cleavages.

The activities of the two main enterprise promotion agencies, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, play a key role in regional development processes in Ireland. In order to drive regional economic development, the IDA Horizon 2020 strategy aims for 50% of FDI projects between 2010 and 2014 to be located outside of Dublin and Cork.

 The IDA End of the Year Statement 2011 suggests that this target has proven very difficult to achieve. In 2011, 72% of investments occurred in the Greater Dublin Area and Cork alone (up from 63% in 2010). The Forfas Annual Employment Survey reports provide a bit more detail. In 2011 employment in foreign companies in Dublin increased by 4,018. Dublin’s 6.1% growth rate was the second highest after the Midlands region (9%) and substantially higher than the third-placed South West Region (4.7%).

One problem with the Forfas publication is that it only provides the net employment gains/losses. An assessment of regional employment dynamics against the IDA targets requires figures for job creation and job losses. In addition, a dynamic analysis would benefit from a distinction between job creation in existing firm and newly established firms.

One year ago Van Egeraat et al. (2012)* conducted such an analysis as part of their assessment of the performance of the National Spatial Strategy (NSS). Focussing on the position of NSS Gateways, the study identified an increasing level of concentration of foreign firm employment in a select number of Gateways. In the period 2006 to 2011, Cork enjoyed an 8.5% growth in foreign firm employment while employment in foreign firms in Galway was stable (- 0.3%). Dublin, although experiencing a fall in foreign firm employment of 6.2%, was still among the better performing Gateways. As a result, the combined share of national employment in foreign firms attributable to these three Gateways increased from 50.3% in 2006 to 53.2% in 2011. More importantly, in relation to newly established firms, Dublin and Cork together accounted for 69% of all jobs in newly established foreign firms, with the Dublin Gateway alone accounting for 46%.

 As part of a recent study of industrial concentration processes in Ireland we investigated spatial concentration dynamics in 2012. We used the cruder spatial scale of Irish counties. Individual investments can have a strong impact on annual figures, particularly in small counties, but the results for larger counties are robust.  Growth rates of employment in foreign firms in both Dublin (6.1%) and Cork (4.6%) were higher than the national rate (3.9%). Combined, the two counties accounted for 78% of the net gain in employment in foreign firms. In a single year, Dublin’s share of national employment in foreign firms increased by 2.3 percentage points to 40.1%. Cork’s share increased by 0.8 percentage points to 17.3%.

Part of this new employment is created through expansions by existing firms in current operations. These operations are not locationally flexible in their investment decision. Therefore, from a dynamic perspective, focusing on future spatial distributions, the spatial pattern of investment by new operations is of particular significance. Results need to be interpreted cautiously due to the relatively small number of newly established firms in a single year but we identify one clear dynamic: the concentration of foreign firm employment in Dublin. With 24 new foreign operations, creating 1,147 jobs, County Dublin accounted for 71% of all employment in new foreign operations in Ireland in 2012. Financial services and computer consulting services firms show a particular preference for County Dublin.

Dublin's share foreign

We were also in a position to analyse the other side of the story: the spatial pattern of foreign firm employment losses. Foreign firms in Cork accounted for 16% of national employment losses in 2012, roughly proportionate to the county’s share of foreign firm employment in 2011. Foreign firms in Dublin on the other hand accounted for a disproportionately high share of foreign firm employment losses (46% compared to a 38% share in foreign firm employment in 2011). The data paints a picture of a very dynamic Dublin region, characterised by a disproportionately high level of employment loss in the foreign sector but even more disproportionate employment creation in the foreign sector.

Share losses foreign

The distribution of employment created by agency supported indigenous firms is more in proportion to the existing stock of employment. In 2012, Dublin and Cork experienced slight increases in their share of employment in agency-supported indigenous firms (0.5% and 0.3%, respectively). However, both counties accounted for a disproportionately small share of employment created by new agency-supported indigenous firms established in 2012. Dublin accounted for a mere 14% of jobs created by new indigenous firms, compared to a 40% share of indigenous firm employment in 2011. Cork accounted for 10% of indigenous jobs created in 2012, compared to a 12% share of the stock of indigenous jobs in 2011.

Share indigenous

Taken as a whole, the data paints a picture of an increasingly concentrated foreign sector. Foreign companies, notably in internationally-traded services, show a clear, and increasing, preference for the national capital.  The indigenous sector appears to provide hope for job creation outside Dublin. This indigenous sector should receive more attention in our strategies for counteracting un-balanced regional development.

Chris van Egeraat, Dept. of Geography and NIRSA, NUIM Chris.vanegeraat@nuim.ie and Rutger Kroes, Wageningen University, The Netherlands and NIRSA

 *Van Egeraat, C., Breathnach, P. and Curran, D. (2012) Gateways, hubs and regional specialisation in the NSS, Administration, 60(3), 91-115.

Date:   Tuesday 17th December 2013 (2.30pm-6pm)

Hosted By:   The Institute for International Integration Studies (IIIS)

Venue:   The Neil Hoey Theatre, Trinity Long Room Hub, TCD

Recent decades have seen the growth in the financialization of societies in much of the Anglo-Saxon world. While seen by some as a source of economic growth and dynamism, it has more recently raised concerns with evidence emerging that excessive growth in the financial sector can have a negative impact on economic growth. It is an important factor in the growth of income inequality and instability. Cecchetti and Kharroubi of the Bank of International Settlements have argued in their recent paper that there is a negative relationship between the rate of growth of finance and the rate of growth of total factor productivity. This symposium will address some of the salient issues pertaining to the Financialization of Society with contributions from five renowned international authorities.

Speakers include:

Julie Froud, Manchester University Business School, Manchester, U.K.

Susan Christopherson, Cornell University, U.S.A.

Paul Langley, Durham University, U.K.

Herman Schwartz, University of Virginia, U.S.A.

Hans-Jurgen Bieling, Department of Political Economy, Eberhard Karls University of Tubingen, Germany.

The event is free to attend, but places are limited. Full details and on-line registration here:

(please note registration will close when full capacity is reached)

protestimage

A shorter version of this article appeared today on the Journal.ie

On Wednesday 27th of November the Ballyhea Says No movement achieved an incredible step along the journey to rid the Irish people of the odious bank debt imposed since 2008. Their motion was put to the Dail calling on the Irish government to ask the ECB to have the Anglo bonds written off. Outside the Dail, last Wednesday night I, along with hundreds of other protestors from across the country, watched the Government TDs vote against that motion. But it is clear that this is far from the end of the campaign against one of the biggest injustices in the European crisis. I have been deeply moved and inspired by the way in which they have marched, every single week, in their small rural town in Co. Cork, since March 2011, in such a determined and dignified manner. Unfortunately, due to a form of media censorship, too few people have heard of the Ballyhea debt group. Even worse, many people have been convinced by government and media mistruths that the Anglo Promissory Notes were done away with in a ‘deal’ in February this year. This article is an attempt to contribute to the spreading of the Ballyhea campaign and provides some thoughts on how we can move forward together to end Ireland’s debt slavery and achieve an Ireland of equality and solidarity.

They were just a small group of residents who got together in the rural town of Ballyhea in Co Cork, in March 2011, and began a weekly march declaring, “Ballyhea says No! to bond-holder bailout” against the imposition of private bank-debt on the Irish people. They started after the newly elected Fine Gael-Labour government reneged on one of their most fundamental election promises, that there would be burden-sharing with the bank bondholders. The key organiser, Diarmuid O’Flynn, a local sports journalist, explained that he was inspired by the Arab Spring “to fight to have returned to us, by the ECB, the money they have forced us to pay out in pursuance of their failed policy…which has resulted in mass unemployment, emigration, misery for the Irish people…Until such time as that has happened…we will continue to march, every Sunday.” The group has brought their campaign to the national and European scale, submitting a petition for bank-debt write-off to the European Parliament Petitions Committee.

Significantly, the Ballyhea Says No! group encouraged other communities to march as well. There are now groups of people marching in Tralee, Killarney, Charleville, Listowel, Rathoath, Clonmel, and elsewhere. While in Dublin, the Anglo Not Our Debt campaign has organised protests in solidarity. A marcher from one of the groups explained to me on the protest on Wednesday night, how he had never been interested in politics before but was so angered by the bank bailouts and austerity that he felt he had to something. He has marched every single week and describes how it has changed him: “I have been reading up on economics and politics and trying to understand what is happening to us. All the political parties are the same. They don’t represent the people. We have been sold out. I was at one of the marches and one of the people said to me to say a few words. I had never spoken before in public and I said a few words about why I was there. Then I went off and read more and spoke again the next time about the debt and austerity. We are tired but we are going to keep on going.” Some also spoke of how they had linked up with anti-eviction protests. They feel completely alienated, abandoned and disillusioned with the government political parties, the state and its institutions.

The interesting thing is that these are the so-called ‘ordinary’ people of Ireland. They are not seasoned left wing activists and have not been involved in politics before. They are the voiceless people of Ireland. The excluded and ignored. Many of them are working full time and trying to do this in their spare time. Others are unemployed and doing it out of frustration and anger. They are doing it because they care about their family, their friends, their community and the people of this country. It is this that gives them their legitimacy, their power and potential.

It is worth reiterating that the Irish people have paid 42% of the cost of the bailing out the entire European banking system. The bailout of the private banking sector has cost us €64bn. We also gave €17bn of our National Pension Reserve and cash reserves to our own bailout by the Troika! The impact of this bailout, the debt interest repayments and austerity policies can be seen in rising poverty in Ireland with the deprivation rate rising from 11% in 2007 to 25% in 2011. Unemployment has risen from 5% in 2007 to 13% in 2013, while Ireland has gone from having the highest net immigration rate in 2006 to having the highest net emigration rate in 2013.

These are the reasons that have motivated the Ballyhea group. Their persistent work resulted in a significant achievement of getting the Technical group in the Dail to put forward the motion last Wednesday night which called on the Government to

“immediately lobby the European Central Bank for a one-off exemption from the rules of monetary financing, to allow the Central Bank of Ireland to destroy the €25 billion in sovereign bonds issued in February of this year, in lieu of the remaining Promissory Notes, plus the €3.06 billion bond also being held by the Central Bank of Ireland in payment for the 2012 Promissory Note; and
— to cease any and all interest payments currently being made on those bonds.”

The Ballyhea, Anglo Not Our Debt and the other Says No! groups, through this motion, and their ongoing work, have shattered the myth that Ireland achieved debt forgiveness on the Anglo promissory notes in February this year. The reality is that one of the biggest injustices of this crisis, the forcing of private banking debt onto the backs of the Irish people, was continued in that so-called ‘deal’. The Anglo Promissory notes were converted into sovereign (Government) debt, of which every cent of the €28 billion is due to be paid back by the Irish people, with interest, through the issuing of government bonds in the coming years.

The acceptance by the establishment organisations like the Labour Party and some of the larger trade unions that we should prioritise the requirements of the financial institutions in Ireland and Europe over society’s needs, and implement savage austerity and debt repayment policies, was made clear in their attitude to this campaign. Unfortunately, Unite were the only trade union present at the protest on Wednesday. It is a sad reflection of the Irish trade union movement that they have not given more support to this campaign. It casts a shadow of tragedy and farce over the commemorations of the 1913 Lockout.

Derek Nolan, a young Labour Party TD spoke in the Dail debate, where he showed a dismissive attitude toward the Ballyhea campaign stating: “I have lost count of the number of times slogans and empty rhetoric have been bombasted as the quick-fix solutions to all our country’s very real ills. Populist, easy to chant slogans included “Austerity isn’t working”, “Default, default, default”, “Bailout the worker” and so on. Those slogans are devoid of meaning and are not grounded in economics, finance or political reality.”

So the Government believes it is unrealistic to expect debt forgivenes or debt write-downs from the European Central Bank but it is realistic to expect the Irish people to accept the destruction of social and economic recovery, push thousands more people into poverty, destroy jobs, force emigration and fuel mortgage distress in order to pay back this illegitimate debt? It is economically ridiculous to think that Ireland’s debt is sustainable. It is morally wrong and unjust that this odious debt is expected to be repaid.

The continued imposition of this debt also makes a nonsense of the ‘celebrations’ of Ireland’s bailout exit. It will trap us in austerity for decades. It is an enforced debt slavery for us and our children.

The United Left TD, Clare Daly’s statement to the Dail on the debate is worth restating as it captures many of the issues that Ballyhea are raising:

“In a Chamber (i.e. the Dail) noted for its brass necks, tonight’s performance almost beat all. To have to listen to Deputy Spring (Aurthur Spring, Labour TD), who is a former Anglo Irish Bank employee and who contested an election on a programme of Labour’s way or Frankfurt’s way, ridicule this motion takes some beating. This individual bragged about the Greek economy being on its knees and somehow thought that was something to crow about to his friends in PASOK but I can tell him there is nobody in Ireland who takes comfort from the situation in the Greek economy. We stand in solidarity with the ordinary people of Europe, whether in Greece or in Iceland, when they stand up and say “enough”……Last night, the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy O’Dowd, when speaking against the motion said we follow through on our commitments and that this is the message we want to deliver to the international community. What commitments and to whom? What message do we want to deliver to the international community? Is it that it can hit us with whatever it likes and we will bend even lower and take it? That is not a message I want to deliver. That is not our commitment nor is it that of the people of Ballyhay, the student nurses, the 100,000 young people who are now in Australia, the 400,000 people who are still out of work, the secondary school teachers, the children with special needs, the survivors symphysiotomy and all of the other people who have been shafted by this debt deal. It is not a message people want to deliver”.

It appears that the current Irish government have not pushed for any debt write down for Ireland. Just like many wealthy nationalists did the bidding of the British empire when Ireland was colonised before, so now their contemporaries in the Dail are bending over backwards to show that they are the good obedient children (or perhaps more accurately, colonial whipping boys and girls) of our new imperial powers, Germany, France, the European Central Bank etc. The Government TDs continue to act as if the European Central Bank has been a friend of Ireland. Let us not forget it was the ECB that refused us permission to burn the bondholders in 2010 which forced us into the bailout. It is the ECB who continue to impose on us unsustainable debt levels which, no doubt, the markets will begin speculating on again in the future and we will see our bond yields rise again and be forced out of the markets and into another bailout. The ECB are clearly not an ‘independent’ institution but a tool of the big European powers. They want us to pay back our debt, not because of some principle of debt repayment, but because it is going to French and German banks.

It was highlighted again and again by speakers at the protest that it is no accident that the politicians are not standing up to the ECB. They, and the wealthy and highly paid classes in Ireland, are doing just fine, and have no idea of the impact of this crisis. They have their well-paid, secure, jobs and do not want large scale protests or alternative politics or approaches that could jeopardise that cosy consensus.

The Ballyhea campaign also raises the question of what is the end game, the purpose, of all this austerity and debt repayments? Our economy is unsustainable and inequitable, dominated by an over-reliance on foreign multinationals who are here because it is one of the most profitable countries in Europe. A majority of people are affected by low wages, insecure employment, poverty, unemployment, and various forms of exclusion as a result of discrimination on class, gender, or disability. Austerity has hit the poorest the hardest. The European Central Bank, private markets and bondholders are insisting we live in penury and debt slavery for decades to come. Despite the demands for reform from the Irish public in the 2011 general election the political and state institutions remain as before the crisis began. We have been failed over and over by our political and state institutions and our model of economic development.

Our youth are emigrating, giving up on this country, turning to drugs and suicide. Notably, there wasn’t many young people on the protest. Emigration is clearly a useful political pressure valve for the elite. Then there is our health system which is becoming an apartheid system where access depends on ability to pay. We are not ‘turning a corner’ we are becoming a social wasteland.

The impact of Celtic Tiger neoliberalism has, as John Bissett, the community worker and organiser of the Spectacle of Defiance and Hope, has accurately described, turned us into individuals trying to fight each other to survive, rather than collectively responding as a community. As we ‘exit’ the bailout and enter a supposed ‘recovery’ the key question is what sort of society and economy are we now aiming to develop? It appears that it is business as usual for the elite who want the Irish people to suck it up and have austerity for decades in order to get us back to the days of unsustainable and inequitable Celtic Tiger growth.

The danger we face as a nation is the return of our dark history of division, silence, and acceptance of oppression. In more recent years the process of social partnership has resulted in civil society becoming part of the establishment, no longer challenging the system and offering radical alternatives.

But there is hope in what is going on at present and the action of the past provides some inspiration to keep us going.

Irish civil society has a long history of struggle from the land league, to trade union struggle, to the tax marches of the 1980s, the civil rights movement, stopping nuclear energy, the massive anti-war marches, co-operatives and community work. In particular, it seems strange and tragic timing that we are only a few years away from the 100th anniversary of the 1916 rising. Connolly, Pearse and other leaders read the proclamation of the Irish Republic at the steps of the GPO in Easter 1916 declaring an Irish Republic which read: “We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible…The republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally…”. Despite their small numbers they challenged one of the largest empires in the world at that time.

We are constantly being told that the system would collapse if we didn’t pay back our debt, or if we left the Euro, or if we left some banks go bust, or if we taxed multinationals properly. But the truth is our society is collapsing. Isn’t it time to ask why we are destroying ourselves to save a system that has failed us and offers only further suffering into the future? Wouldn’t it be better to get rid of this system and rebuild it again in the interests of ordinary people, in the interests of the planet and based on the values of equality, environmental sustainability, participation, accountability and solidarity which were identified by the Claiming Our Future assembly of 1000 people in the RDS in 2010?

People claim that the Irish haven’t protested and that we are conservative and apathetic. Yet the ordinary people of Ireland have resisted the crisis, from the Ballyhea Bondholder protests, to local hospital campaigns, the hundreds of thousands who have marched against austerity and the majority who refused to pay the household charge.  We also have retained a strong sense of community, social justice, alternative value systems and our experience of colonialism provides an understanding and memory of oppression and resistance. But we have not done what the Icelandic or Cypriot or Greek people have done in mobilizing opposition in ways that forced the system to stop, even momentarily, and make the government and elite change direction.

We have the power to do it. We just need to figure out what will work for us. There will be moments in the coming months and years where the anger that has been internalised by the Irish people into passivity, depression, suicide, and emigration will erupt when the naked injustice of what has happened to us is revealed.

At those times we should be organised to maximise the potential resistance. Such moments include the local elections, the issuing of the first Anglo bonds next year, worker’s strikes, the local elections, water charges, the General election of 2016, the commemorations of 2016 itself. It was great to see the encouragement of the local campaigns to stand as independent election candidates in the local elections by Luke Ming Flanagan TD at the protest on Wednesday. It would be great to see dozens of councillors elected on an anti-debt and anti-austerity basis. The establishment parties cannot be relied upon to bring forward these issues. Another idea would be to try get a co-ordinated day of action before the first Anglo bonds are issued next year. Public buildings could be occupied for the week running up to it like the Spanish Indignados and Greek movements of the squares.

It is time for new approaches in Ireland. It is time for the Irish people to break the silence and rise up to demand the implementation of the values of the 1916 proclamation. We are not alone. We have friends in every community, town and city in Ireland. But we need to come together and realise our strength. To do this we need to unite the various campaigns and movements from Ballyhea, We’re Not Leaving, to the property tax to workers on strike in a broad campaign for a Ireland of equality, social justice, communities and solidarity.

It is important also that we develop our key demands and vision for what type of Ireland we want to see. People will demand that if we want them to take action.  We could start with the Ballyhea demands on ending our debt slavery and add to that the creation of real jobs, for equality, for affordable and social housing, for a quality public health system and for the reversal of cuts to communities, disabilities, and carers. Others I am sure will have other ideas to add. But it’s a start. It is clear that a radical transformation of our political system, economy and society is required if we are to achieve the values of the original Republic. Remember: we are the majority, they are the minority.

As Jim Larkin is quoted as saying “The great appear great because we are on our Knees: Let us Rise.”

Rory Hearne