5 Reasons Why Denis O’Brien Is Doing Us A Favour.

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UPDATE: This piece was written in response to earlier threats by O Brien to sue the Dail. Now he is threatening to sue the satirical website Waterford Whispers, for a satirical article. The article is no longer on their website, but you can find a link at the bottom of this post.

Image by Eamonn Crudden

Image by Eamonn Crudden

There’s been a lot of talk recently about how Denis O’Brien’s ability to scare Irish media from commenting on the specifics of relationship he has with state owned banks is a “threat to democracy.”

TD’s of all shades are claiming a “constitutional threat”, because Irish mainstream media refuses to report on the factual content of a statement read into the Dail by TD Catherine Murphy last week. And I have a lot of sympathy for that point of view.

But such utterances are founded upon the idea that we live in a functioning democracy. We don’t. We like in a technocratic representative democracy. Hired Knave has down a brilliant job of tackling this last week here

However it is worth looking over the terrain of conflict around Denis O’Brien trying to shut down public conversation about his 1.25% interest deal with IBRC.

Rarely do we ordinary plebs get to see the rich individual dinosaurs of inequality battle it out with institutions of the state and cultural power. O’Brien seeking to challenge TD’s speech and reporting is a ‘big story.’ But its also a familiar story across the globe were the concentration of media ownership allows rich and powerful people veneers of respectability as they go about the business of exploiting ever more people.

But there are much more interesting stories within that story.

We – those of us likely to spend the rest of our lives on the flip side of that inequality, those of us living with precarity – shouldn’t be simply be looking on as passive observers.

Before Denis O’Brien next hops on his private jet – to stay out of the country long enough to avoid paying taxes like the rest of us – perhaps it worth flagging a few reasons why we he might be doing us all a wee favour.

1 He provides us with a perfect example of how screwed mainstream media actually is.

Denis O Brien RTE

Luckily for the plucky and otherwise brave and fearless media institutions like RTE, The Irish Times and The Sunday Business Post, a judge has ruled today that those organisations wouldn’t be breaking an injunction granted to O’Brien last week. Independent News and Media played no part in the court proceeding because they are of course owned by the tax exile trying to do the gagging.

This is being lauded as a win for common sense, but in essence the judges ruling shows that fear of litigation held by large media organisations in Ireland trumped the simple act of transcribing or rebroadcasting protected speech from a left wing TD. Its a pyrrhic victory at best for the institutions themselves.

The ideology of bureaucratic risk managerialism is a poisonous one simply because it bleaches (individual and collective) values, ethics and moral into the amoral language of cost-benefit pragmatism. This cultural practice is now so deeply embedded in most institutions of state, media and professional political organisations that its impulse is followed through even though it results in de-legitimising the same organisations. That observation remains regardless or whether you think that de-legitimising is a good or bad thing. It is probably obvious I think its a good thing.

There is little difference in the calculus of the Irish Times, RTE et al deciding to not covering Murphys statement and the decision by Fianna Fail TD’s to not canvass for a ‘Yes’ vote in the marriage equality referendum. Both relied on a cost-benefit analysis devoid of ethical dimensions or of the demands of cursory social justice. Both have been found – in the eyes of an increasingly politicised public – to have made the wrong call.

I’m empathic to the precarious nature of journalism and some of the existential threats to business models. I get that people need to pay bills and have some sense of job security. We all need that. But most of us don’t. This isnt an accident. This is how late capitalism works. Media workers are in the same boat as the rest of us.


There is no doubt that journalism is a necessity in assisting wider publics to understand how society works, why inequality is growing and how it is that specific interests in Ireland have captured specific state decision making for their own benefits. And there is no doubt that those vested interests with fight with everything at their disposal to maintain their status quo.


But if journalists themselves dont or cant start to find ways of breaking out of the ideology of bureaucratic risk managerialism, or at least speaking out about the limitations of the job itself in speaking truth to power, there is little reason why the public will continue to support and pay for the product that Irish journalism produces.

Media organisations may feel that changing business models and consumption patterns and advertsing revenues posed a form of existential threat. I’d posit that a far greater threat in the longer term is the disillusionment of wide swathes of society because Irish media organisations bend the knee much more than they land punches.

Enforcing silence is perhaps the most corrosive structural element in reproducing injustice. The history of this state is littered with the consequences of institutions being able to keep things quietly to protect themselves against the organised hurt they carried out. It has only ever been the sustained struggles by people affected that ultimately break the silence. What we need most from journalism – be that lay or professional journalism – is a much more militant approach to transparency and accountability. Tackling enforced silence mean embracing enforced transparency. Tackling the illegitimate and unjust forces of power shown by O’Brien means embracing tactics and strategies of storytelling and truth telling based on bravery rather than fear.

2 He reminds us how important social media is to popular political education and informed publics

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Last week I was working out in Slane for the set up of the gig on Saturday. By Friday everyone I spoke to knew that Denis O Brien managed to stop most media from reporting Murphy statement from the Dail. Many knew the specifics of his 1.25% interest deal with IBRC. Think about that. This wasn’t a newsroom, or a meeting of political activists. This was a temporary workplace made up mostly of people in precarious work, in a field in Meath without a TV or newspaper in sight. Social media and communication technology, used by ordinary people to find out what was going on, bypassed high court injunctions and mainstream media stalling.

It is without doubt that these networks, many or which have emerged during Irish Water mobilisations, have become channels of information sharing and political discourse that are shaping political literacy in our wider population. These networks eschew ‘balance’ and ‘objectivity’ in favour of being tools of active narrative making. They have fluid boundaries that make the distinction between online and offline increasingly obsolete.

I made a point of checking the YouTube of Catherine Murphy statement in to Dail as news broke on Twitter or todays ruling. The video had been watched over 34,000 times. In the metric of YouTube hits that might not seem massive. But no one likely watched that video and didn’t chat to someone about it. Its was a conversation primer. Id hazard a guess that few watched it a didn’t figure out even if this was all legal, it was also a stitch-up.

Likewise Twitter and Facebook was alight with #redacted as people crowd sourced previous attempts by O’Brien to censor media. They shared screen grabs of the Moriarty reports showing O’Brien payments to bent politician FG Michael Lowry. Others created meme’s and visual images taking the piss out of O’Brien and media organisations. Some where humorous, some where angry, some kind of daft, many, many deeply on point.

Broadsheet.ie deserve a special mention. They in particular have been head and shoulders above all on the Irish media landscape in not being afraid to bust the respect for authority on this issue (and others like police corruption.)

Waterford Whispers used satire to rip the shite out of O’Brien and compliant media organisations. Their “Maltese Tax Exile Briefs Government On What To Say Next” was shared over 11,000 times

And of course left wing social media groups and organisations tooks no pause in sharing out the details of Murphys statement. One Visual image shared out by SolidarityTimes have been viewed over 35,000 times.

Personal blogs posts offering an analysis on O’Brien versus media have also been getting very high hits. In very brief chats with Hired Knave and Oireachtas Retort before posting this both described how their O’Brien related posts were going through the roof even though they spend little time promoting them. Again the networks of local community anti water tax groups acted as a conduits for sharing, liking, reading and discussion.


All these totally circumscribed O’Briens legal threats and used diverse language and literary forms to articulate a deep frustration with how power works in this state. Social media and communication technology clearly allows us to create our own analysis, much of it geared to a radical analysis that desires real social transformation. And by radical I mean going to the roots of issues, not just the veneer of a 24hr news cycle.

From the perspective of struggles against structural imposition of inequality – of which O’Brien’s matters are but one specific symptom and reproducing cause – what we are seeing here relates very much to Gramsci’s ‘war of position.’ The idea that a central component (and indeed strategy) of pro-democracy/equality social movements is the challenging of common sense by remaking common sense itself.

In the specifics of this case it means challenging the common sense presented by O’Brien and his team of the green jersey wearing hard working man fighting for his privacy as well as the common sense that present day mainstream media institutions are harbringers of as-yet unfullfilled democratic possibilities.

This proffering of analysis by citizen journalists or innately curious human beings motivated by social justice, or blogging punters – call them/us what you will – offers a much more rich and nuance tapestry of democratic expression that you will find in any mainstream media organisations products. Laden not just with critique, readers know that at the core of this lies other possibilities that the present set up actually negates. We are making relationships of understanding between our own existences and the reality of macro economics and micro corruptions.  This of course will not bring about change itself.

What O’Brien has helped us do – as with Irish Water and years of austerity – is help us find each other. Communication technology is not a panacea for the ills of late capitalism, but it can and does provide both tools and public space for deliberation, education and community/movement building essential for challenging social systems that enable the continuing growth of massive inequality and illegitimate power.

Which perhaps brings me nicely to this next point we could thank O’Brien for.

3 He reminds us that censorship is something the Labour party are pushing in government.

Labour, censorship, Ireland, social media

The Irish government is a fan of censorship as I outlined a few weeks back. If the proposed censorship bills by the Labour Party pass, you could be taken to court for sharing this post with your friends across your social media networks if Denis O Brien was offended by it.

The present bills allow for people – particularly the rich and litigious type we know so well – to shut up people blogging, tweeting and sharing updates, articles and analysis that they merely find offensive.

In this respect I predict that tomorrow ventures by Joan Burton’s PR team to engage the population with the #TalkToJoan hashtag will be used by right wing Labour members to illustrate once again that ordinary people voicing anger at state policies are a dangerous rabble.

4 He reminds us that controlling communication is what Denis O’Brien does.

depiction-of-me-as-enemy-of-journalism-undeserved

Curtailing peoples capacity to communicate might seem like an odd thing for a man so heavily involved in telecommunications. At first glance it seems counter-intuitive. Surely he wants people to talk is he is in the telecommunications business?

Well not really.

In reality Denis O’Brien isn’t interested in enabling communication between people. He is interested in controlling the means of communication in order to maximise the benefit for himself and the companies he owns. If peoples communication damages those benefits then Denis will quite happily stuff gagging orders down their throats. It is the archetypical approach of media megalomaniacs.

And I use the term benefits rather than profits deliberately. Profits are a particular type of benefit, but they are not the only one. Today O’Brien got a full page spread to state his case that hes is being demonised. Yet not one of us called ‘facists’ or ‘nazi’s under Dail privilege has gotten a full page spread in the IT to refute such exaggerated and disgusting slurs.

I was on the Marian Finucane show at the start of February trying to make that exact point via phone. In the studio Thomas Molloy, Group Business Editor of O’Briens IMN tried to argue that O Brien exercised no control over his papers employed journalists .

There’s no polite way of putting this. Molloy is either a liar or is Group Business Editor for the state largest media organisation with little cognisance of what actually goes on under the bonnet of IMN. O’Brien specifically intervened to try and get Sam Smyth kicked off the Independents coverage of Moriarty tribunal as Smyth was making O’Brien look back by printing the facts. Those facts being O’Brien paid cash to a Michael Lowry.

Of course Molloy didn’t like the temerity of a wee bollix like me calling out O’Brien on the day his own front page called anti water tax protests an “attack on democracy” He refused couldn’t bring his plummy voiced self to address me by name, instead calling me one of “these people.” I had very little to do to show the contempt Molloy holds for most folks outside his golden circle. You know, people actually pushing for social justice and democracy.

O’Brien has a long history of shutting down free speech that challenges his world view. And like most media owners he has a long history of using his media companies to present an analysis of the world that suits himself. That’s want most for profit owners do.

Ireland censorship

Denis makes it clear INM previous owners used the paper against him

He even made this point himself the last time the Irish Times gave over a page or two to decry how he was being demonised back in 2011. He describes how the previous owner O’Reilly used the paper to attack O’Brien as O’Brien was engaged in a slow hostile takeover of the organisation. He made no bones about the fact that the paper was a tool for O’Reilly. Yet Molloy now asks us to believe that O Brien doesnt so same as previous owners.

O’Brien goes out of his way to play the “im wearing the green jersey” and did it again in today Irish Times. One has to wonder is it now fierce warm to be wearing that in Malta.

5 O’Brien reminds us to follow the money.

follow-the-money_31648

O’Brien says in todays Irish Times he is a republican with a small ‘r.’ He might as well say he is an anarchist with a small ‘a’ or a socialist with a small ‘s’. He is in fact a capitalist with a capital ‘C’ without the courage and honesty to say so.

Ireland is a corrupt bought and sold state, with its officials and owners in permanent denial that our society is run a functionary of late capitalism, specifically beholden to financial capitalism. Many will complain that the present banking inquiry is futile, no one will go to jail and everyone is escaping scott free.

But that misses the point. Sure, the banking inquiry is set up to fail if we see success as a pair of handcuff on smug rich men. However there is no smoking guns. There is no bad guys sitting stroking cats and planning our future precarity. There is just patterns of behaviours, relationships based in shared ideology and lots and lots of money if you are willing to forgo a pretence that democracy and equality actually matters to you. Ireland is the country were if you want to get along the most important talent to have is low cunning. Its all in the game..

There is just the mundane reality of people like of O’Brien telling his mates in the banks what interest he’s willing to pay for cheap deals. Mundane facts of Enda Kenny meeting with O’Brien in the Shelbourne to plan out what moves their vision of society now needs. The mundane reality of vulture capitalists buying low when blood is on the streets. The mundane stupidity of papers like the Sunday Business Post getting hard ons for ideas like  infinite growth on a planet of finite resources.

Just the mundane reality of silent circles still craving to hold on to power and wealth and decision making. The mundane rituals of respect for respectability. Just the mundane reality of identikit professional politicians within the Fianna Fail and Fine Gael devoid of any type of social vision beyond that proffered in quiet meetings.

Just the mundane world view held by the deeply ideological civil service in the permanent state always looking forward to the next asset stripping so they so can magic up a revolving door they can jump through. Just the mundane reality of big Irish lawyer firms ready to rubber stamp the money flows laundered through our state by multinationals running a global network of legal criminality.

Just mundane facts of men in suits, well educated in legalese and accountancy trickery and PR spin and high frequency trading and shelf companies and tax avoidance and promissory notes and interest rates and asset stripping and all the other mundane obtuse realities far too complex for people like us to understand.

Far too dangerous for people like us to be involved with.

Far too important for people like me and you to be part of actual democratic discussion and deliberation.

Except that we were and are talking about it when mainstream media was silenced and cowed.

We did speak about it in a field in Meath while setting up a gig were people would get drunk and dance in the pissing rain. We pulled it apart online and in pubs and around dinner tables as we crowd sourced and commented. Shrill voices from professional politicians called this an attack on democracy, and engaged in shadow puppetry debate, ever careful to not talk about the actual facts.

e did.

And we will continue to do so.

And more question arises for us all.

How do we best use these tools at our disposal?

What would a culture of enforced transparency look like? And how could it be used to removed silence and ignorance. To shine lights on aspects of the captured state?

Should we be hacking more, should be be setting up platforms for leaking more? Should a radical-tech community (does one exist?) be reaching out to journalists?

Any as I post this more question come to mind. Why was it that the ‘Anglo tapes’ were leaked to INM via Paul Williams who in effect is a Garda spokesperson. He clearly is not an investigative journalist. Perhaps that was the point? I dunno.

More questions arise as I write but for today perhaps we have a little to be thankful to O Brien for. Because it gives us all pause to think about questions of how the people living in this state will never live lives as equals while such unjust powers and scare tactics are seen as legitimate and part of democracy.

Heres that link to the Waterford Whispers piece

https://www.evernote.com/shard/s294/sh/872934e0-826b-466f-957b-d2c93c2fff5b/70f392ca9add949a72e05c0fd2b4167c

8 Reasons Why We Need To Stop These Labour Censorship Laws

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Last week Labour politicians presented two separate bills aimed at shutting down online public conversation. Unelected Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins posted the “Harmful And Malicious Electronic Communications Bill 2015.” Pat Rabbitte published “The Public Electronic Communications Networks (Improper Use) Act 2015” on the same day.

Labour, censorship, Ireland, social media

Both can be read in full at the bottom of this post.

Why two separate censorship bills were brought forward by the same political organisation has not been made clear. A cursory reading of both show that not only are they dangerously wide open for interpretation, but that they both seek to make it a crime to cause any offence to powerful interests and politicians.

1 These proposed laws are Orwellian in nature. They seek to make causing “offence”, “annoyance” “inconvenience” and “alarm” an offence punishable by fines and imprisonment.

From Higgins’ bill —-

For the purposes of this section an electronic communication shall be considered malicious where it intentionally or recklessly causes alarm, distress or harm to the other…

..A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.”

From Rabbitte’s Bill

A person who (b) for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another—

(i) sends or causes to be sent, by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that the sender knows to be false,

(ii) persistently and without reasonable cause makes use of a public electronic communications network, is guilty of an offence.

Pretty alarming and offensive right? These bills enable the squashing of public discussion and dissent. They provide for the legal regulation of online political speech. In a society that already has draconian libel laws to protect the powerful from written or spoken criticism, this is a clear attack on our already delimited democratic sphere.

It gives politicians the ability to censor all online public criticism which might cause them “alarm” “annoyance” or “inconvenience”. Higgins’ bill allows for fines up to €5,000 and prison sentences of 12 months. Not to be outdone Pat Rabbittes proposed law seeks to have fines up to €75,000 and 5 years imprisonment.

The level of punishment sought by the Labour party can only have a chilling effect on many people using social media to engage in public debate. The only possible outcome, if these bills are passed into law, is an increase in the totalitarian potential of the nation state.

Labour, censorship, Ireland, social media

2 They want to take away your communication tools too.

Even the wide ranging vagueness of offense and alarm isn’t enough. Say you are found not guilty after being dragged through the courts on foot of the new offenses they laws would create. It has been declared that have done nothing illegal. Yet still you aren’t free to express and communicate without interference from the state and criminal justice system. Under Ancillary Orders of Higgins’ bill, people can be forced by the courts to remove their own content even though you are not guilty of anything….

Ancillary Orders

5. – (1) If on the evidence the court is not satisfied that the person should be convicted of an offence under sections (3) or (4), the court may nevertheless make any of the following upon application to it in that behalf if, having regard to the evidence, the court is satisfied that it is in the interest of justice so to order:

(a) that the person remove or delete specific electronic communication(s);(b) that the person shares an apology or correction as the court deems appropriate in the circumstances;(c) that the person shall not, for such period as the court may specify, communicate by any means with the other person or that the person shall not approach within such distance as the court shall specify of the place of residence or employment of the other person.

It gets worse. Pat Rabbitte’s bill allows the state to seize laptops, mobiles phones and modems etc etc to be taken from you.

So imagine you send a tweet sugggesting Pat Rabbitte was a bit of a hypocrite condemning political organisations with links to paramilitaries who murdered people, given his own political history. Granted that might be hard to fit into 140 characters, but imagine it was possible for the sake of an example. And say Pat Rabbitte was a litigious sort of character who didn’t want to be publicly associated with any of the murders, bank robberies or lots of stuff the Official IRA was involved in when he was member of the Workers Party, the political wing of the OIRA.

I guess you’d be into a couple of tweets now, something that might be construed by Rabbitte and his expensive legal team and barristers as “persistent and without legitimate cause”. It probably might not matter that you feel it important to public discourse that many younger people ought know that that a former minister – responsible for promoting austerity and a gagging law – was once a member of a politico-paramilitary organisation that murdered people. You might even infer that the Stalinist tendencies embodied in WP/OIRA back in the day could be found in a bill that seeks to quash public online political dissent today by actually making it illegal to be a political nuisance.

So you are taken to court and found guilty. Say your day job was a graphic designer, or architect or any other job that requires a laptop and/or mobile phone and access to the net. Your ability to earn a wage (or get donations) relies on these things. Rabbitte’s bill allows for a judge to remove that wage earning ability by seizing the tools of your trade. See:

(6) On convicting a person for an offence under subsection (1), the court may, in addition to any other penalty imposed for the offence, order any apparatus, equipment or other thing used in the course of committing the offence to be forfeited to the State.”

Labour, censorship, Ireland, social media

3 This is bigger than these two bills. This is about what type of society we want and how we can get there.

These bills are merely the latest manifestation of senior politicians seeking to criminalise public questioning. For the past few years there has been a continual attempt by politicians to shut down public anger, despair and frustration. Especially when that coaleses into social action. This anger, expressed on the streets as well as on social media – is rooted firmly in the inability and unwillingness of current political actors to tackle the causes of inequality and face up to the failure of representative democracy. Instead of taking note of these voices from below, people are called fascists and nazi’s by the very people imposing inequality upon them. 

It is demanded that people play nice, suppress their emotions, individualise and internalise their own insecurities. We are expected to respect respectability and applaud green shoots of arithmetical recovery. We all know that these green shoots will never feed us properly, will not undo the loss of mass emigration and suicides. These green shoots and smoke-and -mirror GDP figures wont let us escape shitty short terms jobs or a pension-less future. On the one hand our politicians applaud our ‘sacrifices’, but on the other they are telling us to shut the fuck up. And that is precisely what this bill will be used for.

4 Far bigger communication crime are happening today and the Labour Party are part of the problem.

“ I was aware there was a gap in our legislative armour and I was keen to cover this because I feel a duty as an Oireachtas member.  Modern democracies require modern laws and why should Ireland be any different in terms of international best practice?” –Lorraine Higgins at the bill launch.

Isnt that what you tend to do during an election?” Pat Rabbitte’s response to accusations of lying to the public in run up to last election.

Lorraine Higgins has ran in 8 elections and been rejected every time, yet she’s able to push forward this bill, because she was appointed to the Senate. Higgins likes to talk about her ‘constituency’ in Galway but was never voted into the Dail. In a clip seen tens of thousands of times on YouTube, Pat Rabbitte made clear that lying is part of modern day electoral strategy.

This is Ireland’s “modern democracy.” But what does a modern democracy even mean?

Labour, censorship, Ireland, social media

Modern in the sense that all our electronic communications, every phone call, email, our browsing histories, each Facebook update and Twitter direct message, all our location-tracking data, menstrual cycle app info and Snapchat sexy shots, etc. etc. etc. are intercepted, filed and stored by the UK intelligence agencies at GCHQ and shared with the US intelligence gatherers of the NSA?

Modern in the sense that none of the main political parties felt the call of duty to speak out about this, never mind publicly condemn other states for abusing the privacy of its own population? From this alone it is completely reasonable to assume that Higgins, Rabbitte and the majority of political organisations in this state don’t give one flying bollix about what modern democracies actually means for the most of the population. They are the managers of our total surveillance. These censorship bills are yet another expression of nation state surveillance and control that we can see growing across the globe. Across the EU we are seeing laws to criminalise online organising, and political protest. All the while agencies of the US and UK are supported by client regimes to achieve total surveillance of global populations.

Labour, censorship, Ireland, social media

5 New Laws, Old Practices

These proposed laws reflect the deeply reactionary and authoritarian nature of the Irish state its relatively closed political classes. As much as we can all see many positive social changes in attitudes and practices – which are exclusively rooted in peoples collective struggles rather than benign political leadership – the Irish state remains instinctively reactionary and under the control of wealthy vested interests. Since the inception of the state, successive governments and powerful elites have used censorship around political speech, free discussion and free assembly and the sharing of knowledge.

Ireland is one of the few *ahem* modern democracies to retain blasphemy laws. This was conveniently omitted from most of the commentary surrounding politicians leveraging the murders in Paris earlier this year to laud themselves supporters of ‘free speech’.

During the financial crisis, new censorship laws within “The Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Act 2010” were used to hide decisions from public view around bank restructuring. Section 60 of the act made it illegal to disclose what decisions the Finance Minister ordered, but also made it illegal to report that Section 60 was being invoked. In effect this was a super injunction stopping journalists reporting on the fact that they were not allowed to report. Brian Lenihan used this act to block reporting on €3,700,000,000 of our taxes being handed over to Allied Irish Bank in mid December 2010.

Labour, censorship, Ireland, social media

As well as refusing women reproductive control over their own bodies, Ireland still bans the sharing of knowledge about abortion. As things stands a doctor can give advice on abortion if a woman seeks an abortion outside of Ireland, but we cant legally tell each other arsing from “Article 26 and the Regulation of Information (Services outside the State for the Termination of Pregnancies) Bill 1995, In Re [1995] IESC 9; [1995] 1 IR 1 (12th May, 1995).” This censorship of course is very difficult to police but the intention is more about shutting down the free sharing of essential and important information than locking people up. In our modern democracy is just not politically possible to lock woman up like this anymore.

(As a quick aside for readers outside Ireland its worth noting that for the first half of respective parties existence Fianna Fail and Fine Gael supported locking women up for being, well…women. These organisations today raise questions about the legitimacy of Sinn Fein given its (past) links with the PIRA. And its totally fine and reasonable in a democratic space to do so.

However FF and FG themselves were not engaged in a wrongheaded low level war with a sectarian state and against a government that organised murders gangs all through the period they were locking innocent women and kids up in workhouses and prisons. There was no external factor enforcing their silence and complicity. This was actual state policy supported and run by FF and FG political organisations. Yet somehow the legitimacy of these political organisations is never really questioned.)

The books “Abortion Internationally,” “Abortion: Right or Wrong.” and “Abortion: Our Struggle for Control” are all banned in Ireland. Whilst not exclusively covering abortion “The Complete Guide to Sex” is also banned. Though in fairness I’m not sure any of us have book shelf strong enough to hold what must be a pretty hefty tome. The fact that these books are undoubtedly shared in digital forms shows how obselete the censorship of artifacts is.

Labour, censorship, Ireland, social media

6 Communication tools are important tools in the struggle for social justice.

Social media tools used within an increasingly networked public sphere afford many of us a low cost ability to engage in critical political enquiry and debate about the world we live in. If our conversations – and the tools themselves – are regulated by government – struggles for social justice and equality will be hampered.

Official narratives and meaning making of our lives is still delivered to us by large for-profit media corporations and state run media. For the most part these tend not to reflect our lived reality. Thousands of us across the country blog, tweet and post updates that are rich with political analysis, opinions, sets of ideas and visions. Across all of these is robust criticism of specific politicise and as well as the clear visible failings of representative democracy to deliver real social transformation. They also include articulations of what a genuine democracy of equals could look like.

We share our thoughts, report on local struggles, give our own context to our lived experiences and challenge “common sense” on a daily basis. It is not the place of nation state governments to regulate our thinking, our communications with each other, or our plans for changing things, simply on the basis that they find it offensive or that it causes them alarm.

Many of us are engaged in campaigns, projects and struggle against the causes of inequality and social injustice. In almost all cases, the main political organisations within the state are barriers to solutions long before they are forced to assist. It stands to sense that they are going to be offended. But if members of the professional political classes dont want to be offended or alarmed, maybe they should drop the sense of duty bollix and think about joining these struggles. Or simply get the fuck out of the way.

Either way we dont need new laws and regulations to demand we speak without causing offence. Discourse etiquette has a social context. We live in a neoliberal Ireland, an Ireland wholly captured by the whims and demands of undemocratic financial capital, an Ireland shaped by the same forces and ideology causing social and environmental destruction across Europe and our wider world.

Making it illegal not to be ‘alarmed’ or ‘inconvenienced’ by criticism in this social context is akin to demanding someone stop giving you dirty looks while you keep punching him in the balls. And when he doesn’t to bring him to court to get his balls punched some more by the criminal justice system.

Fuck that.

7 Laws already exist to deal with threats and intimidation

To be clear, I see no point in threatening violence against a politician. The usual media practice is to seek condemnation. Growing up in the north during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s I’m well versed with the pantomime of ‘condemnation.’ For the most part its circular time filling. Threats to Higgins as she descibed them on RTE Morning are vile, and disgusting. And they almost certainly fall under existing legislation. There is no need for new legislation to address someone threatening you online. All this is covered by S5 & S10 Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.

8 These laws need to be defeated and not passed and we need to start making some noise now if we are to ensure they are.

————————————-

DRAFT / HARMFUL AND MALICIOUS ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS BILL 2015

 

_______________________

 

Bill

entitled

 

An Act to protect against and mitigate harm caused to individuals by all or any digital communications and to provide such individuals with a means of redress for any such offending behaviours directed at them.

Be it enacted by the Oireachtas as follows:

 

 PART I

Preliminary and General

Short title and commencement

 

1. – (1) This Act may be cited as the Harmful & Malicious Electronic Communications Act 2015

 

(2) This Act shall comes into operation on such day or days as the Minister may appoint by order or orders either generally or with reference to any particular purpose or provision, and different days may be so appointed for different purposes or provisions.

 

Interpretation

 2. – (1) In this Act –

electronic communication” includes a communication of information in the form of data, text, images or sound (or any combination of these) by means of guided or unguided electromagnetic energy, or both;

 “explicit content” includes images, video or sound (or any combination of these) of a sexual or intimate nature;

shares” includes sending, posting, distributing or publishing on the internet an electronic communication.

 

 

PART II

Offences

Harmful Electronic Communication

3. – (1) A person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, intentionally or recklessly shares a harmful electronic communication shall be guilty of an offence.

 

(2) For the purposes of this section an electronic communication shall be considered harmful where it –

 

(a) incites or encourages another to commit suicide; or(b) incites or encourages another to cause serious harm to themselves; or(c) includes explicit content of the other;

 

and it intentionally or recklessly causes alarm, distress or harm to the other.

 

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.

 

Malicious Electronic Communications

4. – (1) A person who, without lawful excuse, persistently shares malicious electronic communications regarding another shall be guilty of an offence.

 

(2) For the purposes of this section an electronic communication shall be considered malicious where it intentionally or recklessly causes alarm, distress or harm to the other.

 

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.

 

 

PART III

Jurisdiction and Procedure

Ancillary Orders

5. – (1) If on the evidence the court is not satisfied that the person should be convicted of an offence under sections (3) or (4), the court may nevertheless make any of the following upon application to it in that behalf if, having regard to the evidence, the court is satisfied that it is in the interest of justice so to order:

(a) that the person remove or delete specific electronic communication(s);(b) that the person shares an apology or correction as the court deems appropriate in the circumstances;(c) that the person shall not, for such period as the court may specify, communicate by any means with the other person or that the person shall not approach within such distance as the court shall specify of the place of residence or employment of the other person.

 

(5) A person who fails to comply with the terms of an order under this section shall be guilty of an offence.

 

(6) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €5000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.

PUBLIC ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS NETWORKS (IMPROPER USE) BILL 2015 Bill

An Act to provide for certain offences in connection with the improper use of public electronic communications networks; and to provide for related matters.

Be it enacted by the Oireachtas as follows:

Amendment of section 13 of Post Office (Amendment) Act 1951

1. The Post Office (Amendment) Act 1951 is amended in section 13, as substituted by section 4 of and Schedule 1 to the Communications Regulation (Amendment) Act 2007, by the substitution of the following section:

Offences in connection with public electronic communications networks 13.

(1) A person who—

(a) sends or causes to be sent, by means of a public electronic communications network, a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or is indecent, obscene or menacing, or

(b) for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another— (i) sends or causes to be sent, by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that the sender knows to be false,

or (ii) persistently and without reasonable cause makes use of a public electronic communications network, is guilty of an offence.

(2) In subsection (1), ‘public electronic communications network’ means an electronic communications network (within the meaning of the European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) (Framework) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 333 of 2011)), that is provided wholly or mainly for the purpose of making available to members of the public, whether on payment or otherwise, electronic communications services (within the meaning of those Regulations). 3 5 10 15 20 25 30

(3) Subsection (1) does not apply to the transmission, distribution or relay of a broadcasting service, within the meaning of the Broadcasting Act 2009.

(4) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable—

(a) on summary conviction, to a Class A fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or to both,

(b) on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €75,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years, or to both.

(5) An offence under subsection (1) is an offence under the Post Office Act 1908.

(6) On convicting a person for an offence under subsection (1), the court may, in addition to any other penalty imposed for the offence, order any apparatus, equipment or other thing used in the course of committing the offence to be forfeited to the State.”.

Short title 2. This Act may be cited as the Public Electronic Communications Networks (Improper Use) Act 2015.

Did #RenuaIreland Just Have The Worst Political Interview Ever???

car crash two

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A new right wing political party, Renua Ireland, was launched in Ireland today. Things got off to a bad start when one of the main right wing media celebs involved, Eddie Hobbs, refused to confirm if he was going to stand for election. As I covered earlier  today, this was in direct contradictions to notice posted on the the parties new website. Here he is listed as the first ‘declared candidate’.

Social media has been ablaze with critiques, criticism and piss taking as it emerged that the well funded back end team, responsible for Obama style community/data management, hadn’t even set up a Facebook page for the group. Some folks created a satirical one which has over 3,000 like since lunchtime. Similarly Renua Ireland have a twitter account with no tweets and no followers. Not a brilliant start.

However things really went tits up when one of Renua Irelands sitting TD’s, Terence Flanagan, took to RTE radio to set out the parties stall. This is what happened. It really couldn’t be worse. Mary Wilson acted like a mother coaching her small kid to say a poem for an aunt. The guy would have been in bits had this been a hard interview. Its hard not to feel sorry for Flanagan, but its worth remembering he sought to get social welfare cut off for people taking part in Irish Water protests 

Renua Ireland Launched Amidst Eddie Hobbs Confusion

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Renua Ireland, a new right wing party, was launched this morning by Lucinda Creighton and Eddie Hobbs and some other folks who have some experience of management of some things or others. Like hotels. Or running charities for 80,000 grand year etc. Or running an interest group set up to increase compensation given to farmers who have land which is the native habitat of the hen harrier. All useful experience when facing the structural causes of inequality and ecological collapse Im sure you’d agree

What is interesting is that Eddie Hobbs refused to say if he will run as a candidate. The reason he says is that he just doesnt know. Which is odd as the first person listed on the website as a “Declare Candidate” is Eddie Hobbs

Eddie h0obbs

So some possibilities

The website is truthful and Hobbs has decided to run, but for some reason won’t be honest about that choice to the public.  In other words hes lying

or

Hobbs really hasn’t made up his mind. He’s sitting on the fence asking you to support a electoral party he heads up but is unsure about. Somehow a website was developed, mocked up, reviewed, and lauched live with a pretty massive cock-up.  In other words Renua Ireland cant even launch a website with correct information about what their head honchos are up to, but what you to help elect them to run the country…..

Inspired much ???? And if you though you heard that name Renua before, you just might have.

 

Cork City Hall Occupied in Response to Criminalisation of Dissent

Cork City Hall Occupied in Response to Criminalisation of Dissent

The City Council meeting in Cork was suspended tonight as between 70- 100 activists occupied the city hall. The occupation is in response to the criminalisation of people taking part in demonstrations and actions against the imposition of a water tax.

Last week saw the imprisonment of 5 people for breaking a High Court injunction that in seeks to stop effective blockading of water meter installations. However across the country civil disobediences continues to slow down or stop Denis O Briens company, Seirra GMC, installing meters.

Those occupying city hall in Cork this evening read out a statement which can be seen in the video below.

Photo of occupation in Cork City Hall, proclamation on the wall  Thanks to Páidí Ó Madáin

Photo of occupation in Cork City Hall, proclamation on the wall Thanks to Páidí Ó Madáin

Thousands attend #IrishWater Mountjoy Prison demo.

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Upwards of 10,000 people turned out in an anti repression demonstration in Dublin today. The demonstration came after weeks of arrests in Tallaght and the imprisonment of 4 people last Thursday for breaking an injunction. The injunction is designed to criminalise effective protests in blockading water meters.

People marched from the Central Bank in Dublin’s city center to Mountjoy prison in the north inner city. The Golden Ball outside the Central Bank provided an ideal starting point as it is emblematic of the opulent cocaine fueled financial and economic ideology that has shattered the very communities that turned out today. The Central Bank are planning to spend €500,000 of tax payers money on moving the ball to it new HQ at a time that community project budgets have been slashed by €400,000.

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Bernie Hughes, Richie Larkin, Damien O’Neill, Mark Egan, Michael Batty, Derek Byrne and Paul Moore were all charged with contempt of court last Thursday for taking part in demonstrations against the installations of water meters. Their imprisonment follows weeks of arrests by police under pressure to construct a case of false imprisonment relating to a blockade of deputy prime minister Joan Burton.

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Last night Socialist Party and AAA TD Paul Murphy was a guest on the Late Late show and was questioned by Ryan Tubridy about Irish Water protests in an interview widely lambasted as both comical and biased. All this is in line with a constructed narrative which seems solely designed to frame ‘good protest’ as standing about in a street, and ‘bad protest’ as anything that isn’t that.

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No doubt the government has felt that the anti water tax movement will dissipate and that people will be turned off by media spin and misrepresentation of events on the ground. And it could well be the case that this strategy may way be seen by them to pay off if there isnt a large mobilisation on 21st March.

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However the repression, demonisation, arrests and imprisonment of people, mostly coming from working class communities with pre-existing tension with the Irish police force, is also having a effect of galvanisation and politicisation. This will play out not just in the coming elections, but more broadly in grassroots and community struggle. As Fine Gael drink themselves silly tonight at their annual shindig, they might ponder if further antagonising communities on the brink is a wise strategy or if doing away with Irish Water is the most pragmatic political choice for them.

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Because the numbers at todays demonstration, which was called a few days ago, saw far higher numbers than expected by myself and any one I had chatted to in advance

About 800 people had gathered at the Central Bank, but this swelled as the march weaved along College Green onto O Connell street, up Parnell Sq, along Dorset Street and up North Cirular Rd to Mountjoy Prison. By the time it the head of the march has reached the prison Id estimate there was about 8000, though I’m awaiting the numbers from a professional crowd counter A Flood.

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There were impassioned speeches from some of those brought before the courts and from Jessie Hughes, whose mother Bernie was in Mountjoy prison. The three others were transferred earlier today to Wheatfield prison. The was also contributions from Paul Murphy, and artist Robert Ballagh. Ballagh made the point, after opening his coat to show a white shirt and tie, that rarely did white collar criminals ever spend a night in Mountjoy Prison, whilst working class communities feel full state repression for not staying in their box.

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During one contribution a statement was read out from Derek Byrne stating he had started to refused both food and fluids in prison and will continue to do so until his release. Personally Im very much opposed to hunger strikes like this. I think they are politically dangerous and counter productive. Though it perhaps is a sign of genuine stress, intimidation and last stand to try to undertake this. So I feel and empathise for Derek Byrne, even though I disagree with his actions in this context. Its something to keep a close eye on for sure.

UPDATE: Derek Byrne is on hungerstrike until his return to Mountjoy.

His state as posted on FB is

This is Siobhan Walsh releasing a statement on behalf of Mr Derek Byrne. We have been locked up/confined to a cell for the last 3 days on complete lock down in Wheatfield Prison. We were moved out of Mountjoy because of a political decision. We have taken the steps to go on hunger strike and have been on hunger strike since yesterday, If we are not moved back to Mountjoy Training Unit as we were told we would be then on Monday morning we will be taking it further and refusing fluids until we are moved back to Mountjoy. It is harder for our families to make the journey to Clondalkin to visit us. Every decision made from our court cases to our incarceration has been of a political nature. 2 young children are been kept from their Father and are now in an emotionally distraught state , their Mothers are now been denied financial aid by the Father as he is currently been incarcerated by the state as he refuses to back down from 1. a point of principle and 2. he believes there is a better way forward for the people of this country. We ask that there be daily protests at shopping centers connected to main roads and to keep our stories highlighted. We ask that the politicians (All TD’s FG LB FF) are made to pay for these decisions and for people to hold SILENT PEACEFUL CANDLE VIGILS outside their houses. David McGuiness of FF has said that the water meter protests have led to an increase of burglaries and other areas, NOT TRUE! Water meter protests have nothing to do with an increase in crime, lack of Garda resources and funding by the government have led to an increase in crime, Water meter protesters have committed No crime!. These are the people that are standing and fighting for a better future for everyone in this country. We again ask that Enda Kenny & his government resign. We’d like to thank everyone for their support and continued support. Derek Byrne.

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Court Report : 5 Jailed for #IrishWater demonstrations

Five People Jailed for Irish Water demonstration

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Five people where jailed today for taking part in demonstrations to stop the installation of Irish Water meters. Bernie Hughes, Richie Larkin, Damien O’Neill, Mark Egan, Michael Batty, Derek Byrne and Paul Moore were all charged with contempt of court. Bernie, Derek and Michael got 28 days. Paul and Damien got 56 days Mark and Richie were cleared. Those sentences to prison where found to have broken an injunction granted by Justice Paul Gilligan and none would promise that they wouldn’t do it again

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The injunction granted to Seirra GMC make it illegal for anyone to enter a 20 metre zone surrounding the installation of individual meters. Given the nature of housing in the north inner city of Stoneybatter and Phibsboro the injuction people makes it technically illegal for people to be in many of these small terraced streets at all.

Gilligan has handed more injunctions restriction political protest in the state than anyone else. He previously handing out quite draconian injunctions to people organising a demonstration around the eviction of people from their homes. He awarded it to Ktech, another private security firm who forcable evict people from their homes.

In that case the injunction barred people from open quotes organising assisting publicising are attending any of those public demonstrations. Buy any understanding these restrictions bars people from participating in legitimate public political protest.

The evidence presented by Denis O Briens, Seirra GMC in this case came from video taken by private security firms Guardex and First Pulse. Its was supplemented by oral testimony from Brendan Doyle, Michael O Neill and a Mr Corrigan all of whom have been filming residents of local communities and supporters attempting to stop the nstallation of Irish Water meters. Seirra GMC also tried to use photos they took from Facebook pages of communities groups, but this was eventually ruled inadmissible.

The footage that was provided as evidence came from the streets of Stoneybatter, where they helped the locals organise the blockades in December. Of the 13 specific incidents covered, not one video showed any violence or aggression. This was in direct contradiction with the oral evidence submitted where private security tried to say there was harrassment and violence against workers. Since there was no real evidence and nothing to corroborate it, this too was deemed inadmissible.

The actual ‘crimes’ that people will now be spending their first of many night is prison are

1 Being within a 20m restriction zone

2 Leaning on barriers erected by GMC

3 Standing inside the barrier.

Another thing of note is the fact that none of the defendants could be identified by the private who presented video that they filmed. They had no idea who it was they filmed and said they were only able to ascertain peoples identity by getting information from unnamed “third parties”. As we now know the Data Commissioner is currently investigating An Garda Siochana for handing over information police officers have gathered to Irish Water, GMC Seirra, Gardex and First Pulse.  This is just another manifestation the ever thinning barriers between repressive actions of the justice system, the police force and private corporations.

Bernie Hughes spoke outside the court at lunchtime, just before sentencing

Meanwhile water meter blockades continue across the country. In the south side of the city at Rialto, no water meters were installed as the community came out to stop the installations in direct contravention of Justice Gilligan, Denis O Brien and a government with little support.

Has resistance to water meter installations just won in Dublin? Not yet it seems.

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UPDATE 6.00pm  : Irish Water refutes Sinn Fein statement and say they arent pulling out. Though they do have a track u turns and vagueness.. Their statement said.

“There has been no withdrawal from any region, Dublin included. Irish Water contractors continue to install meters nationwide as evidenced by the numbers”  They also said “n order to guarantee the safety of metering crews and members of the public, metering works have, on occasion, been postponed on specific sites by the contractors due to the nature of protestor activity. Safety of the metering crews and the general public is a priority for Irish Water….Irish Water cannot comment on the specifics of its contracts with third parties for reasons of confidentiality except to say that it is for our contractors to deliver the metering program in accordance with our requirements; safely and meeting time and budget obligations.”

Irish Water are due to release a statement later today following comments from Sinn Fein’s environment spokesperson to the effect that Dennis O Briens company, Sierra GMC, is to stop installing meters in Dublin. Installations of water meters in Dublin have reduced to a trickle following community and street level mobilisations that have stopped work going ahead.

Seventy seven year old Ms. O'Neill joins her neighbours on the blockade of Irish Water at Montpelier Drive. H/T Stoneybatter Against the Water Tax

Seventy seven year old Ms. O’Neill joins her neighbours on the blockade of Irish Water at Montpelier Drive. H/T Stoneybatter Against the Water Tax

Whilst An Garda Siochana and private security firms like Gardex have worked hand in glove to facilitate water meter installation, including the police forces passing on details of people protesting in their own street, the ongoing consistent resistance seems to have have got results. The cost of continuing to push through water meter installations have been made too high for the company and for the government itself.

If the pull out is confirmed this is a massive boost to the anti water tax movement across the country as it shows the effectiveness of community based direct actions in stopping water meter installations in the capital of the country. Its hard to underestimate the importance of this victory.

That being said it is very unlikely that Denis O Brien will take this lying down. We should fully expect the framing of any decision to stop water meter installations to feed into the existing narratives of “thugish elements” of the anti water tax movements.  The mainstream media are very unlikely to portray this as a gallant win.

The Right 2 Water campaign have understandably sought to create a broad left platform for the coming election. Its common sense to do this. However it would be an a substantive failure of opportunity for radical progessive movement building in Ireland, if electoralism alone is the strategy going forward.  But hey those conversations can happen another day.

Because its clear that street level politics outside the ballot box, be that stopping meters going in, taking meters out or wide spread non payment is what will defeat this.

It looks like street politics in Ireland has had its biggest win in decades. And when people get involved with struggle in their communites and  become emboldened with a win?  Well that’s when things tend to get pretty interesting….

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