A miracle on Kildare Street? A popular campaign in Ireland seems to have actually succeeded in getting the establishment powers that be to volte-face and drop a decision to sell off our state forests to the highest bidder as part of the Troika-dictated asset-stripping of the Irish nation. From The Journal:
“THE GOVERNMENT has formally abandoned plans to sell off the rights for the harvesting of trees in public forests.
Agriculture minister Simon Coveney this afternoon confirmed the Cabinet’s decision not to proceed with the sale of the Coillte harvesting rights.
The proposed sale of Coillte’s felling rights had been first proposed in a review of the sale of State assets, led by economist Colm McCarthy, in early 2011.
That report had estimated that Coillte had net assets worth €1.2 billion – but the proposal has drawn sustained criticism, particularly since it emerged that former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was chairing a private investment vehicle which was advocating a sale.
Coveney this afternoon said the Government would now consider a potential merger of Coillte and Bord na Móna, to create a single state body operating in the bio-energy and forestry sectors.
Independent TD Richard Boyd Barrett, a vocal campaigner against the sale, described the abandonment of the planned sale as “a stunning victory for people power and public protest”.
Independent Labour MEP Nessa Childers said the decision was a “victory for people power and grassroots activism”, and paid tribute to the Woodland League for organising a series of protests against the proposed sale.”
A victory for people power, then? Or is something else going on in the background? By all accounts the government found relatively few private companies that were interested in acquiring harvesting rights in Irish woodlands at the prices that were being sought. And none were particularly enthused about contract stipulations relating to long-term environmental management.
In 18 months time Coillte, the commercially based national forestry agency, will almost certainly be merged with Bord na Móna, the peat-production company. Together the two would make a far more attractive set-up for privatisation and acquirement by overseas investors. Call me cynical if you wish, but…
Didn’t get a chance to post this over the weekend but the best of luck to Pobl Caerdydd, the new multi-media network for Cardiff’s Welsh-speaking population. From Roy Greenslade in the Guardian:
“A new Welsh language service, PoblCaerdydd, is being launched today in Cardiff to serve the city’s estimated 36,000 Welsh speakers.
The digital news and networking service will be introduced at the annual Tafwyl festival. It has been developed by and for the community with support from Cardiff university’s school of journalism.
Anyone who has a story to tell, news to share or an image to display can contribute content to PoblCaerdydd through a new tool developed by the university and its partner, the psychological creative agency Behaviour.”
There is a Facebook and Twitter service too.
A Golden Dawn parade in Athens. Sorry! Wrong group of fascists. I meant a UVF parade in Belfast
Only in Ireland! Billy Hutchinson and the PUP, the political front of the British terror faction the UVF, staged a counter-demonstration in Belfast over the weekend labelling protesters opposed to the G8 political summit as “anti-British”. Yes, that’s right. The several thousand people who paraded in support of various economic, social, environmental and political concerns did so because they were opposed to the continued British Occupation of the north-east of Ireland. Is it just me or is the PUP and its allies increasingly spinning off into the outer reaches of the political fringe with such other outcasts as the NF, BNP, EDL and Combat 18? Crazy is as crazy does…
Oh well, at least there is always NI1921 to welcome the odd runaway pup.
Afghanistan – war for the sake of war?
In Afghanistan the United States and its international allies have staged a formal handover of military and security control in the country to the beleaguered Kabul government led by the president Hamid Karzai. Almost immediately the Afghan leader – infamous for being propped up through “bags of cash” supplied by the CIA – announced that his government will enter formal negotiations with the insurgent Taliban front and invited the various groupings that form the movement to take part in forthcoming parliamentary elections. At the same time the US government confirmed that it will be holding direct talks with the main Taliban groups in the coming days after it agreed to drop several pre-conditions it tried to impose on the leaders of the Afghan insurgency, including a formal repudiation of al-Qaida.
So, after a decade of conflict which has left tens of thousands dead and injured and sparked further violence elsewhere in the world, the Taliban – in one form or another – are now predicted by analysts to return to power again in Kabul sometime in the course of the next five years. Which begs the question: what on earth was the point of the “War on Terror” in Afghanistan?
Journalists at work!
With so much of the news from the conflict in Syria being filtered through the International media one is struck once again by questions of reliability when it comes to outside reporting by foreign journalists on faraway troubles. Living in Ireland we became inured to overseas reporters and news crews making forays to the country every time the conflict in the north-east spiked during the four decades of the Northern War. More often than not their reporting was risible, little more than a repetition of the infamous “information packs” handed out to them by the British government officials at the Northern Ireland Office or pumped-up briefings by British Army PR handlers complete with a jaunt over the sprawling Bessbrook military base in a helicopter gunship (though no mention of the outbound and inbound chopper flights using the civilian population below as human shields – that of course did not suit the “agreed narrative” of Britain’s war in Ireland).
Despite the Peace Process, despite the growing interconnectivity of the globe, the paucity of outside reporting on the North of Ireland is as cringeworthy as ever. Take this article from The Atlantic, proof – if proof was needed – that much of the reporting on “Northern Ireland” remains little changed from the 1970s and ’80s when foreign journalists simply got drunk, stoned and laid in Belfast’s old Europa Hotel at the expense of the British tax-payer before filing carbon copy reports helpfully supplied by their British hosts (and yes, that really did happen). In the year 2013 a report on the continuing political divisions in the North of Ireland manages to make hardly one mention of politics, never uses the words “Irish Nationalists” or “Nationalism” or “British Unionists” or “Unionism” and instead references only “Catholics” and “Protestants” and the “religious rift”? Incredible (I won’t even get into Belfast’s Tiger’s Bay area being transformed into somewhere called “Tagger’s Bay”).
Even those who make half an effort at accuracy still produce the most astonishing claims. Take this syndicated piece on Belfast’s so-called Peace Walls from the Associated Press (one of the main Western news agencies reporting the Syrian conflict):
“Belfast’s first peace lines took shape in the opening salvos of Northern Ireland’s conflict in 1969, when impoverished parts of the city suffered an explosion of sectarian mayhem and most Catholics living in chiefly Protestant areas were forced to flee. The British Army, deployed as peacekeepers, erected the first makeshift barricades and naively predicted the barriers would be taken down in months.
Instead, the soldiers’ role supporting the mostly Protestant police soon inspired the rise of a ruthless new outlawed group, the Provisional Irish Republican Army…”
Yes, that’s right. There was no Civil Rights movement in the north-east of Ireland from the late 1960s onwards, no attempt to bring democracy and equality to the Apartheid-state that was ”Northern Ireland”, and no attempt by the old one-party British Unionist government at Stormont to smash both. It was simply a mysterious outbreak of “sectarian mayhem”. Jesus wept…
Thankfully we have some homegrown talent reporting to the world on the situation in the north-east of our island nation or I would give up on the profession of journalism altogether. However, the next time you read or see some reporting from Syria or anywhere else in the world think again. Because if their coverage of Ireland is anything to go by the ladies and gentleman of the International Press are just making it up as they go along.
Binn Éadair (Howth) with edge of Bóthar an Choinicéir to the lower-right of image, Éire
Some long-time readers know that I’m a bit of an architecture buff and reading a recent post by exiled Irish blogger Football Cliches on urban design reminded me of one of my favourite locations to visit in Dublin. As I may have mentioned before way back in the Stone Age I attended a sprawling primary school situated on the edge of a beach in north county Dublin that would have given Hogwarts a run for its money. In fact that school was (the old) St. Fintan’s CBS in Cill Fhionntáin (Sutton), on the secluded Bóthar an Choinicéir – Bóthar Dhroim Chléire (Burrow Road-Claremont Road). To one side of the chestnut-tree lined avenue is the Dublin-Howth DART line, to the other is the long strand of Sutton Beach, and between both is the sometimes higgledy-piggledy row of historic and modern houses which locals know colloquially as “Millionaires’ Row” (and with good reason). Most of the houses have rear gardens butting up against the now much-reduced dunes that front the beach and many are of historic significance. Some are well-known in the locality by a variety of nicknames such as the Tudor House (officially Eskeragh, designed in 1898 for the now largely forgotten artist Mary Kate Benson) and the Witch’s House (to which I shall return anon). Other names reflected the real addresses and descriptions of the homes such as the Lakehouse – a large dwelling in a mid-20th century style backing onto the beach with a small lake taking up the front and an approach over a bridge.
Last evening I went for a walk down the Burrow with my brother, mother and pet dog, the first long visit in a couple of years. Sometimes one should not go back. The area is as beautiful and quiet (at night) as ever it was and it still maintains that air of enchantment that has beguiled so many others (including Jim Fitzpatrick, Irish artist and creator of the definitive “Ché” image, who now lives in apartments where my old school was situated) but the death of the Celtic Tiger has touched everywhere in Ireland, even here. Some of the storied, grey-walled mansions along the beach were in darkness, their tall windows curtained, leafy gardens overgrown, iron gates sealed with red rust. According to the faded notice on a wooden fence facing the road the once gleaming Lakehouse was demolished over a year ago and now lies an empty wasteland waiting for a new building that itself awaits a new economic boom that may never come.
Seaside, Bóthar an Choinicéir, Cill Fhionntáin, Éire
And the Witch’s House… Officially it is Seaside, built in 1860 and with only a handful of owners since its construction one hundred and fifty years ago. However it now lies empty, a lonely building girthed by ankle-tall grass and overgrown bushes, and crowned on its high peaks by grey-green lichen. Both my mother and I have always loved this building and as with the loss of the Lakehouse actually felt the pain of its abandonment, only this time all the more keenly. It is strange how places and buildings can effect one, how they can take on the attributes of genuine affection or love even. My childhood was spent with the Witch’s House in the background, school breaks played in dunes that were far greater than they are now, along a wide foam-swept strand skirting a landscape of weathered buildings and wind-tortured trees that would fire anyone’s imagination.
Ah well.. Maybe one day I will find my own Teach an Cailleach.
- Memories of Ireland (bethala.wordpress.com)
- Dublin. (briancooneyphotography.wordpress.com)