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“Revolution is having a sense of the historical moment; it is changing everything that must be changed; it is full equality and liberty; it is to be treated and treating others as human beings; it is emancipating ourselves by ourselves and through our own efforts; it is defying powerful dominant forces within and outside the national and social milieu; it is defending the values in which we believe, at the cost of any sacrifice; it is modesty, disinterestedness, altruism, solidarity, and heroism; it is struggling with audacity, intelligence, and realism; it is to never lie nor violate ethical principles; it is the deep conviction that there exists no force in the world capable of crushing the force of truth and ideas. Revolution is unity, independence; it is struggling for our dreams of justice for Cuba and for the world, which is the basis of our patriotism, our socialism, and our internationalism.” Fidel Castro, 1 May 2000


This is the question presented by elements of the left, as if that’s it: that’s the sum total of what the socalled left can offer working people. We can either reform elements of capitalism but maintain its essential features, and this will solve the unemployment crisis, inequality, and a variety of other systemic but undesirable features of the system, or we can “call for” a revolution, and the workers, once freed from their union-bureaucrat oppressors, will down tools and seize state power—usually without questioning the role of the European Union. With a ten-point plan to accompany it, we’re all set to save humanity. Thankfully, this is not the only option for working people, and a real alternative is beginning slowly to emerge. From the outset of this crisis the Communist Party of Ireland has led the radical, class-based analysis of the system, which has identified the response of the establishment as socialising corporate debt

to stabilise the financial system—of which our tax-haven economy is a part and on which a section of the ruling class is so dependent—and transferring wealth from working people to the rich by means of “austerity.” This response has been co-ordinated by both the domestic and the foreign elite, through the means of the external troika of the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund and the internal troika of Fine Gael, Labour Party, and Fianna Fáil. The CPI was the first to call for repudiating the debt, and the first to say that austerity is working: working for the ruling class, here and in Europe. These are strategic, class-based demands, not shallow leftist commentary. They are demands designed to expose the class nature of the system and to target its contradictions and weaknesses. This is where a real, meaningful alternative exists. Continued overleaf

Health worsens Page 2 Stealth treaty Page 2 Corporate power Page 5 Credit Union problems Page 6 World Communist Movement Page 7 Venezuela in the firing line Page 9 Pensions and pay reduction Page 10 Nisall Farrell in court Page 12

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socialism continued from page 1 This is not just to boast. The CPI hasn’t got all this worked out, nor has it got the resources to popularise this in the way it could be done: it is purely to point out what a real way forward for the left is, and how left unity can actually be built rather than just called for. Electoral opportunism and short-term egobased politics have prevented the left from developing this strategy the way it needs to be. And, unfortunately, many of those same parties and forces are the ones that make the loudest calls for left unity. The real alternative for working people is the long, difficult but necessary task of creating the conditions in which socialism can be built. This involves a significant deepening of political education within trade unions and communities, recognising the hardship working-class families face and not irresponsibly leading them into battles that leave them hopelessly exposed and then abandoned. The demands we make and mobilise around must be on our agenda and not just defensive reactions. All defensive struggle is important. We must, through comprehensive analysis, identify the strategic weaknesses of the system and put forward popular demands that both educate and mobilise and that expose the class nature of the system, and target its weak points. These demands must expose the class nature of economic and political power, not merely advocate a reform or tweaking of capitalism. So, what are some of the strategic weaknesses in monopoly capitalism? The debt is one. Both finance and nonfinance corporations have become increasingly involved in a complex web of debt and risk, as a means of financing expansion and monopolisation but also as a means of securing profits from price speculation. Debt-based products are also used as a means of hedging risk. States throughout the EU, with the backing of the ECB, have stepped in and bailed out these institutions by socialising their debt and transferring our wealth to their balance sheets, showing the true nature of statemonopoly capitalism and also the fundamental nature of the EU as a protectorate of European monopoly interests. So repudiating the debt and transferring it back to the fragile private sector is striking at the heart of fundamental structural weakness within the system. It is a demand for weakening capitalism, not bringing about a capitalist recovery. The environmental crisis is another strategic weakness. There is now no doubt that capitalism’s drive to achieve increasingly difficult profits is destroying our eco-system and threatening human existence. Profitcreation doesn’t just alienate labour: it also page 2 SOCIALIST VOICE

alienates the natural world. Our planet is used as a commodity for re-creating capital, and this drive for growth ignores the physical limitations of what the planet can provide and sustain. Capital’s attempts are increasingly desperate, as fracking and other highly irresponsible practices become normalised. Identifying the fundamental contradiction between capitalism and the environment, and connecting the environment in a real way to the struggle to protect public services and jobs, is essential. Ireland has the potential to develop renewable energy sources: this should be harnessed in a public and planned way as part of a campaign for energy self-sufficiency and job creation. Capital, released from our oil and gas if nationalised, can be used to make this transition.

‘Sovereign control over our political and economic system is vital’ As an island nation, our seas present us with huge resources, but these too must be harnessed in a sustainable way. Sovereign control over our seas is necessary for making use of them in a planned way, to provide maximum use value for people but in a long-term and sustainable way. And thirdly, the system suffers from a chronic lack of democracy. Sovereign control over our political and economic system is vital. Democracy is meaningless without the ability of democratically elected and recallable citizens’ representatives to make decisions without external interference from EU regulations, treaties, or directives, with the ability to make decisions free from the threat of immediate and terrible war by the financial markets, the ability to tax capital and wealth as we choose, and the power to direct capital into investments that are useful and productive, rather than those that provide the highest return in the shortest possible time. This strategy will be less electorally popular in the short term than mindless sloganeering and promises that deceive working people while avoiding the difficult questions and analysis of the present-day capitalist system and the reality of monopoly capitalism, dominant politically through the European Union. Nonetheless it is the strategy that genuine socialists must pursue. Like-minded socialists and progressives from various parties, movements and unions must continue the positive work in 2014 of building this strategy and injecting these ideas into every debate and particularly into the trade union movement. [NL]

A stealth treat erode national E ARE ALL familiar with stealth taxes and how they effect they have on us. However, there are stealth treaties that are potentially more damaging and far-reaching than any piece of tax legislation. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, now under negotiation between the United States and the European Union, is one such stealth treaty. When agreed, it will effectually create a single market between the two economic zones, resulting in a further erosion of citizens’ rights and prosperity. Readers of Socialist Voice may recall Enda Kenny making glowing references to this treaty as he congratulated himself and his coalition government on having secured “agreement on a mandate for the start of negotiations . . .” and described the the TTIP as “one of the major achievements of our Presidency [of the EU in early 2013] and one of genuinely historic potential.” The treaty is indeed of historic significance, but how aware are the Irish people and people in other EU states of the ramifications of these negotiations and how this will almost certainly affect us detrimentally? What is in store for us is not a mutually beneficial agreement to remove unnecessary impediments to the exchange of goods and services between EU member-states and the United States. The working out of this pact will be something altogether more damaging to working people and corrupting of democracy. Whether the Taoiseach understands the implications of the treaty or not (and nobody knows how much his guardians let him know), the fact is that this deal will remove regulatory trading differences between the United States and EU states. In practice this will cause EU member-countries to be bound in large part by “business-friendly” trade rules and regulations, the adjudication of which will be overseen by unelected and largely unaccountable legal persons.


might well have on Ireland. Look first at how in the late 1990s the World Bank forced Bolivia to privatise the water system in one of its largest cities by selling distribution rights to the American transnational company Bechtel. When city-dwellers rioted after a steep increase in water prices, the government attempted to reverse the privatisation. Using its high-powered legal team, Bechtel sued, using the provision in a bilateral trade agreement, and demanded compensation of $50 million for an original investment of only $1 million. Only enormous global pressure forced the transnational company to back off, giving a very rare victory to the common people. Should anyone ask what relevance this case might have in Ireland, consider the Irish government’s well-advertised plan to introduce water charges in 2014. Think then of the distinct possibility that the newly formed Uisce Éireann or Irish Water will be privatised as soon as the government has established a water-metering These agreements always include a number of infrastructure. We could then lose control over our greatest natural resource: water. stringent free-market provisions that guarantee The second case to consider occurs in Canada, companies the right, for example, to avoid capital where Lone Pine Resources Inc. is suing the controls; the right to equal treatment with stateQuébec regional government for $250 million as run agencies, opening the way to unrestricted privatisation; and the right to avoid performance a result of a moratorium on fracking introduced by the regional parliament in 2012. The mining indicators, such as R&D commitments that company is claiming that under the terms of a would provide long-term local sustainability. trade agreement between the United States and Writing recently about this treaty in the Guardian (London), George Monbiot pointed out Canada the Québec government’s moratorium is an “arbitrary, capricious and illegal revocation of “the remarkable ability it would grant big its valuable right to mine for oil and gas.” business to sue the living daylights out of This case has an obvious message for Ireland, governments which try to defend their citizens. It north and south, where fracking is of significant would allow a secretive panel of corporate concern. The Australian energy firm Tamboran lawyers to overrule the will of Parliament and has already declared its intention to begin the destroy our legal protections . . .” The settlement mechanism Monbiot refers to process of extracting shale gas in Co. Fermanagh early next year. is usually provided through the insertion of a These two cases are far from isolated clause in bilateral trade agreements that bind incidents. Study after study has recorded in detail both parties to this particular method of dispute resolution. Rather than resorting to the domestic how transnational companies with deep pockets use “investor-state dispute settlement” to legal systems of participating countries, signatories must therefore accept “third-party” or intimidate national governments. The Irish people are already at a serious disadvantage as a external arbitration. The body most widely used result of having to adhere to the European for this process—and greatly favoured by large Union’s neo-liberal agenda. In spite of the procorporations—is the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, an institution treaty “Endahype,” it is plainly irrational to inflict a still greater handicap on our ability to contain established by the World Bank in 1966. the rapaciousness of profit-seeking These tribunals are presided over by international lawyers, many of whom come from transnationals. Of course we may not have any choice in the corporate legal backgrounds. In the light of their career experience and ambition, it can reasonably matter, embedded as we are in the European Union and bound by decisions made by its real be argued that their impartiality is at least power-brokers in boardroom and bourse. questionable. A recent report from the Nevertheless, it is important to make people Transnational Institute* states that “just 15 aware of decisions and options that are being arbitrators, nearly all from Europe, the US and taken out of our hands, and by whom. Canada, have decided 55 per cent of all known Under the circumstances, it is disappointing investment treaty disputes.” The report continues that our national broadcasting and print media by pointing out that, worryingly, some wealthy do not put as much energy into investigating this law firms with special arbitration departments actively encourage cases under these procedures question as they do into guessing how Gerry Adams used to spend his summer holidays. against governments in crisis. [TMK] Let us examine two cases that have involved “investor-state dispute settlement” procedures to * illustrate the effect that this type of legislation

aty to further al rights

Health worsens as mandarins thrive

S CHRISTMAS approaches it has become apparent that Santa Claus comes early and often to the mandarins of the Health Service Executive and their appointees in various hospitals and centres. Even some consultants have become enmeshed in the seasonal cheer and have been caught in the act. The most scandalous instance of the top-up culture comes from Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin, where senior executives robbed the kiddies’ sweet-shop to give themselves extra bonuses. Then there is the case of the Central Remedial Clinic, where fundraising for the centre was diverted to provide top-ups for the chosen few. And almost daily come revelations of more scandals, as those without any scruples or sense of shame continue to wage war on the poor, sick, disabled, and defenceless. Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children has also confirmed that its chief executive, Lorcan Birthistle, is getting a private allowance of €30,000, generated from the profits of the hospital shop. This brings his salary to €140,808. At the Central Remedial Clinic it has emerged that its chief executive, Paul Kiely, trousered more than €135,000 in top-up and allowances from its own funds, on top of his salary of €106,900 provided by the HSE. The breakdown was: salary provided by HSE, €106,900; allowance (CRC), €19,000; top-up from CRC, €116,965; total, €242,865. Others at the CRC also benefited from topups. These include officials working in client services and network administration. In addition to salaries of €79,000, three blazers got top-ups of €32,000. The IT manager had a salary of €79,000 but also grabbed a top-up of €37,000. From the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin, came the revelation that its master, Dr Rhona Mahony, is getting a privately funded top-up of €45,000 in addition to her salary and allowances of €236,000. Daily we are reminded that this top-up culture, based on greed and bolstered by the ideology of the free market, is not new but permeates Irish society like a rotten abscess. The Adelaide and Meath Hospital at Tallaght,, said it ceased top-up payments to senior staff members in 2010, after it was revealed that approximately €700,000 was paid out from public funds to five senior staff members there between 2005 and 2010. continued on page 5



Ireland of the “Celtic Tiger.” Among the glitterati at these occasions are to be found representatives of the biggest tax-avoiding corporations and companies. One wellknown face at such events belongs to a family whose company is involved in the wholesale destruction of native lands in Latin America, with resulting hardships. Hunger is a choice, but not one that is made by the hungry: the choice is made by the powerful of the world. When a section of society decides not to pay their fair share, it is making a choice that will affect the health and security of the rest. Philanthropy is another way the rich get to publicly display their “generosity.” It has been heralded as a much-needed revolution in the business of giving, especially by members of the present Government and often actively sought by them. It always comes at a price, or with an agenda, control being one of the main demands of the “philanthropist,” who decides where the with donations from the public, and not, as money goes and often on condition that the is generally the case, a body existing on state provides matching funds. In this way taxpayers’ money. the state’s right and duty to allocate Examining the salary scales of the top spending can be, and has been, usurped. officers of some of these “voluntary” bodies, It can also make good business sense for one is often surprised at the level of their a company to donate to a local community. pay. Many of these organisations have a To quote a web site devoted to small professional staff, paid at the same rate as businesses, “by using profits derived from those employed in the statutory services but the community to benefit that same without the same responsibilities. Also, community (filled with its customers) “voluntary” organisations can choose which businesses can greatly increase their groups they work with—unlike the statutory prospects of future revenue flows. sector, which provides services for all groups. Supporting a community can lead to greater This would raise the question whether it’s in local economic success—creating income the interests of these private groups ever to that can then be used at the business. For address or solve the problems or issues their impoverished areas or those without organisations provide for, for example experience with particular products, homelessness. philanthropy can actually be used to create a market.” Irish people always seem to respond generously to appeals for help, especially from abroad and for children’s needs. In the end it’s a personal choice whether one contributes to a charity; but shouldn’t we ask if this is the way we want to finance such areas as children’s hospitals, education, and overseas aid? And what does this say about our view of these basic human requirements? Do we really see them as charitable gifts, rather than human In the case of the Central Remedial Clinic, rights? The more they become associated the question that must be asked is whether, with “charity,” the more such rights become eroded. and why, services were reduced or On a more mundane level, if we do employees were let go while this huge donate to charity shouldn’t we always know amount of funding remained untouched. what proportion of our money disappears in From some of the media coverage it would appear that this was the case. Again, why is administration and salaries? With the continuing neo-liberal agenda of the CRC receiving funds from the state while transferring more and more wealth to a it has sufficient of its own? smaller section of society and the ensuing One of the most nauseating sights that increase in poverty, one can forecast a appear from time to time in the social bright future for the CEOs of companies columns of the newspapers is the gala dinner to raise funds for the hungry. Happily involved in the “misery industry.” [RCN] these are not so frequent since the demise

Is charity the enemy of justice?

HE NEWS that an account linked to the Central Remedial Clinic has millions of euros sitting in it will hopefully encourage an examination of the “charity sector.” The first question is why a country as rich as Ireland should depend on charity to support vital services, such as health, education, and shelter, given that people should be entitled to these services as citizens, according to their needs. Secondly, if one is constantly shelling out to these charities, should it not be considered another form of taxation? A walk through the streets of any city or town in Ireland is usually punctuated by appeals for help from individual people, and now there’s a new form of corporate begging that many find obnoxious. This entails approaches by faux-jolly people who greet passers-by like long-lost friends and try to sign the victims up to a commitment to a standing order. This “cold sale” technique must be one of the most difficult and disheartening jobs in the world; it’s hard not to be sympathetic with these people, especially as they are generally working on commission. (One would hope that these are not considered “jobs” as far as employment statistics are concerned, but if they are, then improvements in employment figures must be taken with a grain of salt.) Many of the officers at the top of the socalled charitable or voluntary organisations draw salaries commensurate with those earned by the upper echelons of the corporate world. If corporate greed has made it into the charity sphere, then we really have reached the bottom of the barrel. One definition must be made plain, and that is “voluntary organisation.” To many people, this title would imply that the organisation is run by unpaid volunteers,



‘Hunger is a choice, but not one that is made by the hungry: the choice is made by the powerful of the world’

continued from page 3 But a report by the Heath Information and Quality Authority into governance issues at Tallaght, published eighteen months ago, revealed that senior managers were receiving top-ups, in one case to the tune of €150,000. And in May 2012 the Sunday Business Post published a comprehensive story under the heading “Mater says top-up payments made to 17 consultants and executives.” While these senior executives and consultants are making hay, the plight of public patients worsens. Wards are closed and staffing levels reduced. Those at the front line, such as nurses and junior doctors, are stretched to breaking point as they try to maintain some level of civilised care. A&E departments are packed. Instead of waiting on trolleys as a step to a bed, patients queue on chairs for hours in the hope of getting a trolley. In the areas of step-down facilities, the situation is dire. Home help and care services are slashed, and waiting-lists are lengthening. Enda Egan of the Carers’ Association has been quoted as stating that “carers who had asked for more incontinence pads were asked to bring in used ‘nappies’ to be weighed so the HSE could determine if they actually needed more than the permitted quota!” And patients and their families can expect even more hardship next year. A letter from the director-general of the HSE, Tony O’Brien, to corporations against governments), or the the minister for health, James Reilly, leaked to threat of them, inhibit the capacity of the media reveals that the plan to cut spending national governments to pass public-health on medical cards will now run to €133 million— and environmental protection legislation. up from the planned €113 million. And the HSE Arbitrations under the TTIP are carried out in has been asked to make a total saving of €666 secret by trade lawyers, who earn income million next year. from the parties and are not accountable to Meanwhile there is no shortage of resources the public or required to take into account for those at the top. Top-ups funded by broader constitutional, legal or human rights pocketing the charges from car parks and norms. robbing patients’ sweet-shops are always an In Canada one government official said option. There seems to be no shortage of these recently: “Even if these cases don’t succeed top-ups. There is little concern that these extra they can exert a powerful effect on legislation payments are being made at a time when more . . . I’ve seen letters from New York law firms than €3 billion has been cut from the health coming up to the Canadian government on budget over the past five years. And next year up virtually every new environmental regulation to €1 billion more is due to be slashed. and proposition in the last five years. They The rich and powerful flourish while we, the involve dry-cleaning chemicals, poor, teeter on the brink of the abyss. For us it is pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and patent law. the daily grind for survival in the face of All these new initiatives were targeted, and unemployment, illness, disability, cut-backs in most of them never saw the light of day.” health, pay, and welfare, social charges, stealth To further conceal the details of the TTIP taxes, and threatened evictions. Meanwhile the and the consequences of many of these rich, powerful, well-connected minority live the elements in the proposed agreements, the life of Reilly. Their policy is the neo-liberal Tory American negotiators are attempting to mantra, “Greed is good!” obtain “fast-track” authority for the treaties in All this is just the latest manifestation of class Washington, meaning that negotiations do war in Ireland and the class nature of the state. not take place in public and that the final What is usually hidden is suddenly revealed as agreement will be submitted to the president the contradictions inherent at this specific for signature, with Congress compelled to moment of capitalist and imperialist crisis vote yes or no, without amendment. intensify. People need to be aware of what is going This can be fought, but only through the into this huge agreement and to be vigilant. united action of anti-capitalist and antiGoing on past agreements, we cannot wait imperialist forces. Unity and co-operation on a on the EU to stand up for citizens. [EMC] principled basis is the key! [MA]

Transatlantic trade and investment

Governments to be legally subordinate to corporations

OON THE Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill (2013) will go through Dáil Éireann. Hopefully for all of us it will force tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in standardised cartons, with graphical health warnings. Or will it? Welcome to the “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” an international agreement between the USA and the EU, the negotiations on which were re-started on 13 November. The aim of this massive treaty is to remove any international trade disputes and to bring in totally border-free and freemarket economics. And we know where that will lead. Speaking last Tuesday [19 November], the minister for health, James Reilly, said he would be “astonished” if the new law would not be challenged, even though he must have known that in Australia there has already been a legal challenge to essentially same law, which the Australian government brought in and which was upheld by the Australian Supreme Court. The American corporation Philip Morris International, one of the biggest tobacco companies in the world, has now taken a case against that sovereign state. Using the TTIP, it has asked a secret tribunal to award it a vast sum in compensation for the loss of what it calls its intellectual property, i.e. its brand on cigarette packets. “Investor-state claims” (actions taken by




Bagenalstown Credit Union and its problems

by Jade BA OR SOME years now I wondered why the credit union in Muine Bheag (Bagenalstown) was paying such low interest on shares to its members, occasionally even less that half of 1 per cent. So I decided to ask questions, only to be told that the Government had instructed all credit unions to put away more to increase their reserves. There was no mention at all of the huge amount of money spent on the new credit union building, or the prime site it was built on. There was no mention of the fact that reckless lending had taken place by way of business people getting business loans. A credit union is a mutual society, set up primarily to encourage people to save and then borrow for things like home improvements or building an extension, getting married, or replacing a washing machine. However, all is changed now. Once you could borrow as much as you had saved. Using your shares as collateral, missing a payment meant your shares were wiped out, so everyone paid their loans weekly and saved what they could on top. In other words, your weekly visit, alongside your history of repaying loans and saving, is what counted. If, however, you wanted more than you had



in your shares, up to a maximum of three times your shares, you had to go before the credit committee to discuss your ability to pay it back. This was only fair. In those days you paid £2 a week for every £1,000 borrowed; so if you had £5,000 in and wanted to borrow €5,000 it would cost you £10 a week in interest. Interest was applied only to the diminishing balance as your loan amount fell. Now members get only €2.25 for that same €5,000. Should you die before the age of fifty-five your shares were trebled and added to your original shares, subject to a certain amount. After fifty-five the amount you saved was doubled, and so on, until in your seventies it was less again but your loan was wiped out. In a credit union co-operative, everyone was insured. This year I found out that the old interest rate of €2 per €1,000 had been abolished for some years. You now pay 45c on every €1,000 borrowed up to your shares, 90c on every thousand over. So on every €1,000 borrowed up to your shares our credit union is losing €1.55, and on every €1,000 borrowed over your shares we are losing €1.05. It’s little wonder that our credit union can no longer pay a rate of interest that keeps up with inflation. The biggest shift, however, and the most damaging, is in how our credit union operates. As members, you can no longer apply for a loan

up to the value of your shares and in accordance with your history as savers or good payers of loans. Now if you are applying for a loan of over €200 it must be registered and a credit check done. Then you have to go to the credit committee, who not only seek proof of your income but must be supplied with bank statements and a full breakdown of your weekly outgoings. It is demeaning for members to be treated in such a way. Do I have to point out the obvious, that your savings are your collateral, and your history as a saver and borrower is your credit reference? This was the practice that served us well in the past. I think the reasons for all this change are more sinister. Firstly, it is an exercise in information-gathering. Secondly, we have gone from a mentality of mutualism to a mentality of discriminating against people from a workingclass or unemployed background. Our savings are wanted, but the working class themselves are somehow untrustworthy, indeed unworthy, though for years we have proved otherwise. It’s funny how the credit union movement fell into difficulty only when it began to lend to speculators and the so-called business class. Sure, some people in all classes have problems, and some don’t want to pay back what they borrow; some never had any intention of paying back what they borrowed in the first place. But when we operated with the old ethos of the credit union movement, we were not in trouble. €2 on every €1,000 lent meant that we had something at our back. What’s wrong with the credit union is that it now operates like a bank, and has succeeded in putting itself in financial difficulty by bad lending. At the same time it pushes out the very people it was there to serve, and that is the community, regardless of the background they come from. Class war has crept into our credit union movement while we were not looking. As usual, the working class have no say. I suppose we can all shuffle off to should we need a loan, leaving our shares to be divvied up among the middle classes by way of cheap loans to themselves. Wonga, by the way, charges for every £1 borrowed £5 per day. At 45c in the €1,000 per week, the middle classes are laughing at our expense. This raises the question, How many members were allowed to borrow far more than the old threetimes quota on shares and still have the cheap interest rate of 90c per €1,000 per week? And how many of them were asked to prove ability to pay in the first place? Indeed, how many of them intend to pay the money back at all? These are questions that need to be answered. In short, where does the buck stop, and whose head should roll? Maybe a criminal investigation might answer all these questions.


GUIDELINES FOR COMMON OR CONVERGENT ACTION adopted by the 15th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties Lisbon November 2013 To stimulate, in co-ordination with the parties from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the organisation of an international seminar on the capitalist crisis’s impact in the developing countries, focusing especially on issues such as the right to economic and social development and the protection of natural resources, as well on issues of agriculture, land tenure, and food security. Highlight the role of monopolies in the destruction of the global environment, asserting an antimonopolist and anti-capitalist viewpoint on the growing environmental crisis.


Organise an international campaign in solidarity with the ongoing processes and struggles in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in particular with Socialist Cuba—against the US blockade, the common EU position, and for the return of the four Cuban patriots still held in US prisons—with Bolivarian Venezuela and with the Colombian people’s struggle for peace with social justice.




HE PARTICIPANT parties of the 15th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties define the following guidelines for their common and convergent action and mandate the Working Group to try to implement these guidelines in coordination with other parties of the Solidnet list.


Commemorate, during the year 2014, the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I and the 75th anniversary of the beginning of World War II through a joint campaign alerting to the dangers of new international military clashes, alerting to the need to enhance the struggle for peace and against imperialist aggressiveness and wars and highlighting that the struggle for peace is intimately linked with the struggle for socialism. (In this sense the German Communist Party, the New Communist Party of the Netherlands, the Workers’ Party of Belgium and the Communist Party of Luxembourg informed about the preparation of an action in the German border town of Aachen on 15 February.)


. Examine the possibility of taking advantage of international events where a large number of parties are present; organising a working meeting to debate the ideological offensive and the mass media’s role, as well as to exchange experiences on mass communication work.


To celebrate International Women’s Day (8 March 2014) highlighting the effect of the crisis and of the imperialist multifaceted offensive on working women and national oppressed women, expressing solidarity with their struggle and their anti-imperialist movement.


Honour 1 May (May Day) with participation in the struggles in each country for the defence of workers’ and people’s economic and social rights, for the right to work and for labour rights, highlighting the importance of the class struggle, for the abolition of exploitation of man by man. Consider the possibility of announcing on this Mark the fifteen years from the beginning date a day of action, with initiatives in each country, against unemployment and its real of criminal-imperialistic NATO aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a roots, giving particular importance to the mass unemployment among youth. Defend new phase in the development of militaryimperialistic strategy and the beginning of the trade union rights, denounce political occupation of Kosovo and Metohija, southern persecution and demand the liberation of detained trade unionists. Serbian province.



Examine the possibility of convergent actions on the combat against racism, xenophobia, against fascism, stressing the importance of the ideological struggle against anti-communism and the rewriting of history, denouncing the EU in what concerns its institutional campaigns and measures aiming to equate communism with fascism. To determine a day of action, with expressions in each country, against the persecution of communist parties and the ban on communist symbols, affirming solidarity with the communist parties banned in their countries.


Commemorate the 95th anniversary of the creation of the Communist International (March 1919) underlining, on the occasion of 90 years of Lenin’s death, his central contribution to the international communist movement. To stimulate, in co-ordination with the parties from the Arab countries and Middle East, the organisation of an international seminar about the social and national emancipation struggles of the peoples of Arab countries and the Middle East, expressing the solidarity with all the peoples of the region that are victims of the imperialist and Zionist crimes and aggressions, among others the Palestinian and Syrian people, and also with the peoples that rise up against repressive, dictatorial and reactionary regimes, in defence of their social, political and democratic rights.


To continue to denounce the imperialist intervention against Syria and Iran, and to continue the struggle for the recognition of an independent Palestinian state.


To promote the international front against imperialism and support for the international anti-imperialist mass organisations, the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), the World Peace Council (WPC), the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), and the Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF), in the specific framework of each country.



World retail distributors of hoarding. Retail prices have skyrocketed. Suspected sabotage of the electricity supply in Venezuela caused widespread black-outs, with Caracas left in total darkness for many hours on Monday 2 December. The government has been forced to take emergency measures to ensure public safety, boost consumer confidence, and curb the disruptive activities of the opposition, incited by its firebrand leader, Enrique Capriles. In a familiar refrain picked up—predictably—by the world’s capitalist press, Capriles accuses Maduro and his government of delegitimising their democratic credentials by subjecting Venezuelans to the dictates of their tyrannical fascist regime. As most of the country’s mass media are controlled by counter-revolutionary elements, hard-pressed Venezuelans are being constantly exposed to this distortion of the reality of their North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Russia.) The situation. strategic goal then—and probably now—was to Maduro supporters recall Chilean distress prevent Venezuela from achieving its regional before the coup that removed President Salvador leadership objective and pursuing policies that Allende in 1973. The Nixon government wanted negatively affect American global interests. then to “make Chile’s economy scream.” A Although Nicolás Maduro won Venezuela’s statement from forty-five high-level retired presidential election in April by a slim margin, Venezuelan military officers calling for military this democratic decision of the Venezuelan intervention testifies to the high stakes in play people still remains unrecognised by the US now. government. After those elections, opposition Such treasonable incitements to violence take demonstrations quickly spread, killing thirteen people. Now that the government faces municipal place against the background of a fundamentally sound economy. In 2012 Venezuela’s oil revenue elections on 8 December, engineered social totalled $93.6 billion, while $59.3 billion was turmoil has returned. spent on imports. Interest payments on foreign Opposition groups financed by the US debt were relatively low. Currency reserves now government are rioting on Venezuelan streets approach $37 billion. “This government is not and forcing shortages of consumer goods. For going to run out of dollars,” as one economist, José Vicente Rangel, vice-president under Mark Weisbrot, put it. The fact that inflation fell Chávez, their attacks on power stations, city in 2012 coincident with the economy expanding transport services and oil refineries are terrorist by 5½ per cent is a favourable sign, he suggests. in nature. Shops are running short of milk, And “the poverty rate dropped by 20 per cent in textiles, sugar, shoes, electronic equipment, and Venezuela last year.” more. The government accuses importers and

Venezuela in the firing line


N THE PERIOD leading up to its municipal elections on 8 December, Venezuela continues to make news. Opposition forces, supported by the United States and the international press, are doing their damnedest to make the country ungovernable. They use the current destabilisation, induced by themselves, to create an image of the Maduro government as being dysfunctional, dictatorial, and corrupt. The US government encouraged the failed right-wing coup of 2002 and the subsequent disruption of Venezuela’s oil industry. Both they and powerful forces inside Venezuela targeted— and continue to target—the Bolivarian movement because of its decisive role in promoting continent-wide unity and social justice. Not surprisingly, NSA documents appearing recently in the New York Times, thanks to Edward Snowden, identified Venezuela as one of six “enduring targets” for electronic eavesdropping in 2007. (Others were China,

Venezuelan students to get laptop computers and HE MINISTRY of University Education in Venezuela made a number of announcements this week, including the provision of more than 200,000 new books to be used in modernising four hundred university and college libraries around the country. The books, which have been imported by the government, form part of a project by the ministry to update the libraries to include digital books, subscriptions to journals, and a central data-base. The minister, Pedro Calzadilla, explained that by centrally co-ordinating such schemes, private, public and autonomous universities can all benefit. “By doing this centrally we can get better prices and evade the issue of price speculation in books.”



Speaking at the launch of the yearly University Book Fair in Caracas, the minister emphasised the importance of literature to the technological, educational and intellectual development of the country. “The universities are one of the best spaces for the expression of knowledge, and a good part of this knowledge goes through books. These study houses are potential editing houses too, and often their productions are not well known.” The minister also commented on the progress being made in the Canaima Educativo scheme, launched by President Maduro in recent months. This is a hugely successful scheme for supplying laptop computers running Venezuela’s Canaima version of the GNU/Linux operating system, given free to school-age children in the

public educational system. The scheme will “develop a plan of production and handing over of laptop computers to university students,” Calzadilla explained. Under this plan the government will begin purchasing and handing over more than 2½ million laptop computers to university students. Similar advances are being made in the project to create free wifi zones in all university colleges in the country by the end of the year. So far three have been set up, including the Bolivarian University in Caracas, but soon the scheme will be widened to other universities. “We are in the phase of technological feasibility and the elaboration of the itinerary,” Calzadilla explained. The minister of science, technology and innovation, Manuel Fernández, who is working alongside the Ministry of University

Pensions 0 Still, there is no room for complacency. The Venezuelan-American lawyer Eva Golinger, who has exposed over the years the massive funding by the United States of opposition groups in Venezuela, recently organised the publication of a document outlining opposition preparations for the coming municipal elections. Entitled “Venezuelan Strategic Plan,” it comprises fifteen “action points” covering sabotage, “massive mobilisations,” food shortages, “insurrection inside the army,” and control of publicity. It anticipates “crisis in the streets, facilitating the intervention of North American and NATO forces, with support of the government of Colombia.” The resulting “violence should cause deaths and injuries.” This plan for universal mayhem in Venezuela emerged from a meeting on 13 June 2013 attended by Mark Feierstein, regional head of the US Agency for International Development, and representatives of three other organisations: FTI Consulting of Florida; Colombia’s “Center for Thought Foundation,” linked to the former president Álvaro Uribe; and the Democratic Internationalism Foundation, promoted by Uribe. Although Capriles has called for massive antigovernment mobilisations against the government throughout Venezuela before the December elections, aspects of this “plan” may be just a “wish list” for the present. But, given the desperate desire of the United States to reestablish its hegemony in Central and Latin America (and get a handle on Venezuela’s huge oil reserves), full activation of the “plan” in the future can hardly be discounted. The plan also illustrates how far the so-called “defenders of democracy” are prepared to go to restore a status quo of oligarchic rule and dire inequality in a Venezuela completely subservient to the interests of their ever-generous paymaster: the United States government. [TMS]

Pensions and pay reduction

N 26 NOVEMBER, speaking in relation to the proposed ESB strike, Leo Varadkar stated: “Nobody is being asked to take an additional pay cut.” He is wrong. By changing the ESB pension scheme from defined-benefit to definedcontribution, a pay cut is exactly what is being proposed. Company defined-benefit pension schemes are nothing more than deferred pay. Peter Drucker, the capitalist guru, said in his book The Unseen Revolution: How Pension Fund Socialism Came to America: “If ‘socialism’ is defined as ‘ownership of the means of production by the workers,’ then the United States is the first truly socialist country.” Drucker’s view was that increasingly, corporate America was owned and controlled by the employees of businesses and government. Drucker believed that pension funds would continue to grow and would control, through shareholding, all the major American corporations. In effect, workers were gaining control of the county’s capital fund. Profits were becoming retirement pensions, that is, deferred pay for the employees. The creation of surplus value was being undermined, and business income was going into the wage fund. By the late 1990s pension funds were the major owners of shares, not only in the United States but internationally. The number of employer pension plans in the United States rose from 13 in 1899 to 300 by 1919, covering 15 per cent of the work force. They were used to reduce the labour mobility of key employees and to discourage trade union militancy. At first the pension schemes were aimed at managerial employees, and factory workers were excluded. However, government changes in tax treatment and union Education and the Ministry of Industry in agitation encouraged employers to make this project, explained that it will be of the schemes more widely available. benefit not only to the students but to all In 1949, for example, the Steel Industry involved in universities. The objective is that Board opposed a wage increase for steel “each student, worker or professor can workers and instead recommended the access the internet from their mobile institution of non-contributory pensions for phone, tablet, laptop, or whatever employees. Admission to or the setting up technological tool they use.” of pension schemes became a feature of The minister of university education also announced that he has called a meeting of pay negotiations, so that by 1960, 41 per cent of the American non-agricultural work the higher education ministers of the force was covered by an employer’s pension Mercosur countries, to be held in Caracas scheme. In effect, unions in the United this week. The government of Nicolás Maduro has held several such topic-specific States were able to gain benefits for members by the use of their collective meetings in recent weeks with Mercosur bargaining power. countries, including the ministries of In the 1980s this situation began to be equality and police forces, part of a policy reversed. Companies underfunded their by Maduro that seeks to strengthen the schemes or allowed them to collapse so as potential of Latin American trade and to reduce their obligations to their workers. exchange. [EMC]

nd free wifi


The decline of defined-benefit schemes has been dramatic: from 170,172 in 1985 down to 53,000 by 1997. In contrast, defined-contribution schemes have increased from 207,846 in 1975 to 647,000 by 1997. In Ireland, pensions have a longer history, but in many respects the situation mirrors that in the United States. The earliest private-sector employers to provide pension schemes were the railway companies. Other employers followed, at first providing schemes for white-collar workers and then extending them to manual workers, for most of the same reasons as American employers: encouraging a stable labour market and discouraging strikes. However, legislative changes in the 1990s brought about a remarkable shift away from pensions as a form of income in retirement to pensions as a form of wealth management, with the emphasis on converting income to capital for company directors and wealthy capitalists. The growth of defined-contribution schemes and the closing of defined-benefit schemes to new entrants have meant that the inherent risk in this type of saving is transferred to individuals and away from companies. In the first three weeks of 2008 the pension funds of Irish private-sector workers lost €10 billion from their value because of international stock-market turbulence. Irish pension funds had a heavy reliance on bank shares, the value of which was wiped out. Between 1996 and 1999 the number of defined-contribution schemes increased by about 12,000; in the three years following 1999 they increased by 35,000. Definedbenefit schemes were in decline in the same period, and no new schemes have been opened in more than ten years. The number of defined-contribution schemes in existence is unknown. The advantage of defined-benefit schemes for participants is that costs are lower, because they benefit from economies of scale and the employer bears the costs and the risk. Consequently, those on lower incomes and the standard rate of tax do not incur any great burden by being members. In defined-contribution schemes, on the other hand, the risk is transferred to the individual, who is put into the role of making investment decisions and carrying all the costs. With defined-benefit schemes, adverse selection was eliminated, because the insurance company can base its rates on the average over the set of employees and is assured that all employees in the company will participate. [JM] SOCIALIST VOICE page 9


A moral choice: choose war or peace Niall Farrell’s statement to Ennis District Court: 2 December 2013 I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.” The Irish state is in denial concerning the US military’s activities at Shannon. Indeed, according to the prosecution, everything at Shannon Airport is “proper.” But what is proper with facilitating up to two million soldiers to wage illegal wars and occupations of foreign lands via Shannon Airport? What is proper with facilitating the murder of over two million innocent people via Shannon Airport? What is proper with facilitating the transport of lethal weaponry, including depleted uranium munitions, via Shannon Airport to indiscriminately kill and maim in foreign lands? On RTE’s Joe Duffy show on April 1st 2008 a spokesperson for Murray’s Air stated that the US company had a licence from the Irish state to transport munitions, including depleted uranium, via Ireland. What is proper about facilitating via Shannon Airport “extraordinary rendition,” or, in layman’s terms, the kidnapping, the torturing, the imprisoning and the disappearing of countless individuals? In September of this year the Council of Europe called on Ireland to “atone” for its complicity. Take the case of Binyam Mohamad. His CIA kidnappers and torturers received a céad míle fáilte from their Irish hosts. The Council of Europe established that the CIA operatives left Shannon after a good night’s sleep and went on to kidnap Binyam Mohamad and bring him to be tortured in Morocco. And he was tortured for months. One Moroccan speciality was applying razor blades to Binyam’s genitals. In this incident alone, Ireland has contravened the principles of the UN Convention Against Torture.

President Obama’s weapon of choice is not “rendition” but the indiscriminate killer drones. Is it proper that Shannon Airport should facilitate this means of killing and maiming of thousands of innocent people, including children? Apparently it is: US military Hercules planes, a very familiar visitor to Shannon, transport these weapons, in containers perversely dubbed “coffins” by the US military, to murder and maim in foreign lands. Just to personalise the issue: this little Pakistani girl [here he produced a photograph]—Shakira by name—was a victim of an Obama drone strike in 2009. She was one of the lucky ones. A doctor by chance lifted her from a hospital litter bin, where she had been deposited with two other tiny victims. Only last week a little two-year-old in Afghanistan was killed by a drone—a drone that no doubt came via Shannon Airport. Again, is this a proper use of the airport? The prosecution against us has been based on double standards. The state prosecutes us under a law that they refuse to use to search the CIA and US military planes. We have the Gardaí refusing to properly investigate prima facie breaches of international law but prosecuting us for attempting to highlight the state’s connivance at those breaches. On March 18 2011 Shannonwatch delivered two wheelbarrows of detailed evidence of the crimes being committed at the airport to Shannon Gardaí. Seventeen months later it received a contemptuous response of less than a half page, simply denying the truth of this factual evidence. And on more than one occasion in this court our concerns about the presence of warplanes at Shannon on those particular days were also brushed aside. In any sane person’s world, the killing of up to two million innocent people—the equivalent to a third of the population of Ireland—is a holocaust. The Irish state can brush it all under the carpet, but the truth is the USA’s “war on terror” is the holocaust of

the twenty-first century. Shannon Airport’s runway is a gateway to that holocaust. Would the minister for justice have considered saboteurs of the railway tracks to the Nazi death camps to have been committing a crime? Hardly. So, neither should Margaretta nor myself be before a court. We did what had to be done to highlight Ireland’s part as an accessory to crimes against humanity. In the Vatican’s St Peter’s Square on the 1st September Pope Francis was leading the faithful in prayer against a US war against Syria as Margaretta D’Arcy and I were making our way to Shannon to express our opposition to what appeared an imminent war. Our actions may have been somewhat different, but the goal was the same: peace! And we prevailed. Nuremberg Principle IV states: “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.” This court has a moral choice: uphold the Irish state’s breaches of international law or send a message that the Irish courts will not tolerate the improper use of our airports for war. In other words, choose between war and peace. Niall Farrell and Margaretta D’Arcy were found guilty of causing malicious damage to American warplanes at Shannon Airport and will be sentenced in a week’s time.

Time to fight back against monopoly The announcement this month that 115 workers are being made redundant by the huge transnational Pfizer is a body blow to the people of the Newbridge area. Unfortunately the continued aggression of monopoly capitalism has raised its ugly head in Ireland. Pfizer recently bought another huge multinational Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc. Following these buyouts it didn’t take page 10 SOCIALIST VOICE

long for Pfizer to maximize and consolidate its profit potential in Ireland and globally. Recently it has announced it will close one of its three factories in Puerto Rico and also in Germany and another plant in Sydney. Transnational companies set each plant and each country against one and another in an endless attack on wages, working conditions and pension rights.

Unfortunately with the weakening of strong unions and their collective strengths, workers wonder where this will all lead to. The alternative is for workers across all sectors of society to start educating, agitating and organizing and to fight back. Pfizer and their cohorts are only interested in one thing – maximum PROFIT. Paul Doran Dublin

Frank Conroy commemoration

UNDOING THE CONQUEST renewing the struggle s Noel Martin (CPI) speaking at the commemoration THE SECOND Frank Conroy commemoration took place on Saturday 23 November at the Kildare Republican Memorial in Market Square, Kildare. Jason Turner introduced the first speaker, Noel Martin of the CPI, who spoke of the life of this Spanish Civil War hero who died in 1936, fighting with the International Brigade defending the Spanish Republic against fascism. He drew attention to “the similarity from Conroy’s time and today: we also have fascism, emigration, unemployment, austerity, as opposed to the fairy tale the establishment would have people believe.” The main speaker, Rayner O’Connor Lysaght, said: Parallels can be drawn from Conroy’s ideals and the earlier 1913 Dublin Lockout, that is a major twentieth century industrial contest. The Lockout was a defeat for the workers, but their resistance inspired their comrades elsewhere, stimulating them to further struggles, such as came to pose the possibility of the working class taking state power. The majority of union leaders did not start thinking defensively. For them, the Lockout itself had been, after all, a defensive fight. Nor did those with socialist perspectives abandon them. Rather, like too many of their comrades abroad, they assumed that Socialism was inevitable, but they had no strategy developed to achieve it.

In April 1917 Connolly’s closest ally of his last years, William O’Brien, was elected to a committee chaired by Count Plunkett to organise the political leadership of the reviving national revolutionary movement. O’Brien’s Labour comrades made it clear that he compromised his trade union position by this membership, and he resigned from what was to be the organiser for the new Sinn Féin. In addition, with both Republican and Labour movements growing and having organised a general strike against conscription, O’Brien was proposed as anti-conscription candidate in the Cavan East by-election, a nomination he refused, leaving the seat to be won by the rightwing Sinn Féiner Arthur Griffith. The Home Rule MP Joseph Devlin accused Éamon de Valera of having ordered ‘Labour Must Wait.’ Actually, Sinn Féin’s (and de Valera’s) approach to Labour was more subtle: to absorb or neutralise, but not to commit too far. Sinn Féin bargained with Labour over the 1918 general election, in exchange for promised international socialist support. Sinn Féin passed the first Dáil’s Democratic Programme and adopted a number of Labour-supported minimum demands: equal rights for women, a living wage. By the time of the truce with Britain in July 1921, Sinn Féin was the sole Irish challenger for state power. Labour was now irrelevant, and Irish Labour did wait, and has waited, as a class, ever since. Speaking after the event, Jason Turner

The first publication of the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum. This 90 page booklet deals with the cornerstones of how to understand and analyse our society, based on three sets of seminars organised by the forum in 2012 in Connolly Books, Dublin. Available to buy in An Siopa Leabhair at An Cultúrlann, Falls Road, Belfast; The Sinn Féin Bookshop, Falls Road, Belfast; Connolly Books, Dublin or from the forum directly.

Connolly Books Dublin’s oldest radical bookshop

The place for H Irish history H politics H Marxist classics H philosophy H feminism H trade union affairs H environmental issues H radical periodicals H progressive literature

Connolly Books is named after James Connolly, Ireland’s socialist pioneer and martyr Connolly Books is in East Essex Street, between Temple Bar and Parliament Street SOCIALIST VOICE page 11


Dublin Community TV: victim of cultural cuts The announcement on 2 November that Dublin Community Television was winding up its operations was a blow to all involved, especially all the youth and community groups that have availed of the resources that DCTV opened up to all. Many times I was in the studios in Temple Bar to witness packs of youths milling around in a state of high excitement at their first engagement with a television studio, and to see the effort and imagination they created—youths from working-class areas who would not normally have access to this medium. The Connolly Media Group joined the DCTV co-op in early 2013 and received topclass instruction in film, editing, interviewing skills—in fact in any area we needed for carrying out our desired plan of producing video from a class basis. This instruction was given totally at the pace and level determined by ourselves, and for this we will be forever grateful, as I’m sure our many followers are, who are able to see the huge gap we filled in that year. As well as CMG and youth and community

groups, DCTV developed many other groups who went on to produce fine examples of what can be done when you take the commercial pressure off young and developing video and film-makers. The ones that spring to mind are Dole TV, the Live Register, Citywide, and many other groups dealing with music, art, and minority groups. Those of you who have seen any of the above will probably be chuckling at some recollection of the best bits; those who have not, go on line before it’s too late. It seems that this end for DCTV is a common complaint with community groups’ funding. Normally this came from a mixture of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and the Sound and Vision (S&V) scheme, including funds from other paid training courses they ran. Besides the fact that the BAI is obliged to support and fund community television, they have slashed that amount by up to 80 per cent. We wait to see where that funding goes (the likely candidates being the private television companies now on air). The result is the loss of five jobs and a massive hole in community TV.

DCTV have admitted to errors in the setup they employed in handling the funds they received—not in the sense that they squandered or misused any of the funds but that they tried to spread it out to reach as many groups as possible. The fact that the S&V funding was project-specific and did not take account of rent, wages, heating, lighting, etc., and on top of that the fact that BAI funding also did not include these figures, the funds were stretched to the point where a rejected S&V project (or in this case several) meant the end of the road. The BAI is fully aware of this and has turned a blind eye. If there is a lesson to be learnt it is this: that if the BAI is serious about funding community television, as it is obliged to, it should fund it properly and not have the juggling of funds that was necessary for DCTV. We call on all TDs and parties to raise this issue and not let the good work done by DCTV slide off the table. Eoin McDonnell Connolly Media Group

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