In 2019, the year in which we had a smidgen short of 78,000 millionaires, nine billionaires, and a handful of people earning more than the country, Social Justice Ireland estimated that approximately one full-time worker in five in the Republic earned less than the Living Wage. That is, in the second richest country in the world (IMF), 20 percent of our full-time labour force earned less than what it would cost to achieve an acceptable standard of living.
Who knew the final straw for Irish commoners would be the introduction of water charges? That put feet on the streets. We had big marches in the centres of towns and cities with contested numbers of thousands of protesters, and small pickets in outlying housing estates, each with a dozen or so protesters calling shame on the installation of meters. And it worked. Or so it seemed: water charges were dropped and those who had paid prematurely were given a refund. That ‘victory’ kept us quiet for a while—but in reality, it was only a reprieve, a strategic withdrawal until the anger dissipated and the energy drained. In July 2019, we were threatened once again with charges for those who use ‘excessive’ quantities of water. This thin end of the wedge would leave it up to Irish Water to decide what usage is ‘excessive’ and who pays for it. But that’s precisely what the protestors protested about: we already pay through our general taxes for treating one of our most basic national commons and, by general consensus, that’s the way it should be. The Government can charge us, through our taxes, for cleaning the air, but they can’t charge us for breathing it. And by the same token, they can charge us for treating our water, but they can’t charge us for drinking it—we already own it. And if you’re wondering who is responsible for excessive quantities of water being wasted every day, the answer is Irish Water. The real problem is that they have failed to stop, and show no apparent serious appetite for stopping at any time in the near or distant future, the loss of more than 40 per cent of water, treated at our expense, that leaks through the sieves currently passing for water pipes in […]
As with homelessness, the statistics on health are horrifying, the media images are gut-wrenching, and the facts are bleak. On January 17, 2006, Mary Harney, then Minister for Health, declared the situation in the country’s A&E departments a national emergency. There were 422 patients on trolleys in Irish hospitals that day. Fourteen years of emergency status later, on January 7, 2020, there were 760 patients on trolleys in those same Irish hospitals.
In 1983, a two-to-one majority voted for the Eighth Amendment, banning abortion for all time and the Supreme Court ruled that laws criminalising homosexuality supported the ‘Christian nature of the Irish State’. But by 2018, we had legalised same-sex marriage and repealed the Eighth. What happened? 12-minute read.
Drunken, brawling, criminal, lazy, as thick as two short planks nailed together, and not wanted over here—that’s what ‘everybody knew’ about the average Mick when I was growing up in England. Creating a racist stereotype doesn’t need any basis in fact, just an ugly image repeated often enough. (10 minute read.)
Social media algorithms created separate information tunnels leading to echo-chambers fed not with information but with affirmation of what their readers had already liked. Each tunnel built up its own ‘truths’: anything that offered a different perspective had been sent down a different tunnel.
Eco-villages have become more and more popular over the years as people become more conscious of the looming climate crisis. Owen Connolly asks Davie Philips of Cloughjordan exactly what is an eco-village and what is different about living in one?
Owen Connolly interviews Liam O’Sullivan of Trasna na Tíre – Ireland’s online history lecture series, adapted to work with the restrictions of the lockdown. ‘We bring in experts from outside our locality to explain aspects of our history to us.’
Owen Connolly talks to Stevie Nolan of Trademark Belfast, the anti-sectarian unit of the Irish Labour movement. ‘Our role for the last 25 years has been in the peace process. In particular, we deal with sectarian conflicts in the workplace.’
French economist Thomas Piketty argues that, contrary to what we are constantly told about job creation and trickle-down riches, the ultra-rich are harmful to the general economy. When the number of US billionaires exploded in the 1990s and 2000s, per capita income growth halved from 2.2% to 1.1%. (8-minute read.)