BACK TO WORK AND CONTAGION?

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time text: 10 mins)

According to news reports, the Government is considering a relaxation of restrictions and a return to work – but with people wearing masks1 and with monitoring of preventative measures. An obvious question is, if these measures are thought to be effective in future, why are they not being implemented now? And why not in the past? Will we be going back to work but also to contagion?

Conductor on Seattle trolley-bus, USA, masked against Spanish ‘Flu 1918.
(Image sourced: Internet)

PRESSURE TO LIFT RESTRICTIONS

          There is clearly some pressure to lift restrictions – many people want to be able to earn money and socialise as before. People want to go on holiday, get on with education and projects, visit relatives. Small businesses want to save themselves from bankruptcy or climb out of debt. And bankers and industrialists want to continue squeezing people for profits. The State too, in both its ‘national’2and municipal forms, wants to raise taxes to fund its essential services: power generation and supply, water purification and sewage treatment, health service, postal and electronic communications, public transport and road maintenance, fire-fighting, refuse collection and disposal …. To all of those pressures the Government seems to be bowing – but have they thought it through?

In Germany, which has lifted some restrictions, people have been obliged to wear masks in public but even so, the authorities are urging people to be cautious, that they “will have to live with the virus” for some time. In other words, “forget about going back to normal, probably for a long time”. Initial statistics show a rise in infection cases there after the lockdown easing.  In Britain, especially England, trade unions have attacked the “mixed messages” from the Prime Minister, Boris Johnston, about returning to work as “potentially lethal”.3

Germany experienced a rise in numbers infected after relaxation of lockdown.
(Image sourced: Internet)

So, about the pressure. Ordinary working people have bills, mortgages and rents to pay, small business people have the same and clearly a state needs to have money to fund essential services. Yes, and big companies and banks are pressurising too. And we all know how successful banks are at pressurising governments, don’t we?  Especially our governments.

Apart from banks and building societies, the Government could ease the pressure on ordinary working people and small business people by declaring a moratorium on mortgages and rents for the duration of loss of earnings due to the pandemic. Yes, it would need to take powers to do that but wouldn’t most people support them in doing so?

The building societies, banks and big businesses wouldn’t support it however, all of which are interconnected. Well, when the banks and building societies messed up – and not for any reason like a pandemic, either – our governments forced US, the ordinary working people, to bail THEM out. In fact we’re still paying for that out of our national reserves and in cuts in all kinds of provision. A little bit of “comes around” would do them no real harm.

As to the finances to run the essential services of the State and of local authorities: end the tax write-offs, holidays and low taxation rates etc. And change the line on “We don’t want Apple to pay us the money which even the neo-liberal capitalist EU says they owe us!”. Yes, we DO want it – and we NEED it, ALL of it and NOW!

Industrial workers masked against the Spanish ‘Flu pandemic in Britain 1918.
(Image sourced: Internet)

“FALSE CONFIDENCE”

          The German authorities, with a much more efficient and better-funded health service and financial reserves, have been warning its public about false confidence. Now and again we see some indications of that here in Ireland too.

OK, so a section of the public is not properly educated or just willfully ignorant – stupid even. But if when you introduce a lockdown to deal with a pandemic you talk about it being for an initial two weeks ….. what kind of message are you giving out? And if you tell most people not to bother with masks or gloves? And if in the early days of the pandemic told them firstly that public events would not need canceling4 and then that to attend outdoor events of up to 500 and indoor events up to 100 people5 was basically safe? If the responsible authorities never seemed to be taking it all that seriously until late in the day and even then have managed it quite lightly – are some people to be blamed for having false confidence?

Another cluster of infections has just come to light, ten meat processing plants accounting for 566 cases so far. Prof. Catherine Motherway, President of the Intensive Care Society was reported as cautioning that a lot more needs to be done before restrictions are eased. “We need to know that our health system can cope … find and isolate the cases and treat them.”6

New York street cleaner masked against Spanish ‘Flu infection, 1918.
(Photo sourced: Internet)

FACE-MASKS NOW – BUT NOT EARLIER

          According to reports, the Government will want us to wear face-masks when they relax the restrictions. But ….. weren’t they telling us from the start that there was no point? Wasn’t even the World Health Organisation playing down their usefulness?

Well, either they know they don’t work, in which case they just want us to feel safe enough to start the wheels of industry turning and the money flowing into the big accounts …. Or they know they do work, and they’ve been advising us wrongly all along.

That’s where my bet is and I’ve written about this already, weeks ago7. It’s bloody obvious that face masks must help prevent spread the virus and depending on the type and procedures employed, would also help protect the wearer to some degree. Quite a number of countries made wearing them in public obligatory. And now the Government will be doing that here too.

Good. But I just wonder how many people got sick – or even died – because the authorities discouraged them from wearing them earlier?

People wearing masks and “Wear a mask or go to jail” placard, 1918, during Spanish ‘Flu pandemic, probably USA.
(Image sourced: Internet)

The Government has yet to specify where the masks are going to come from and, little respect as I have for any person prominent in the Labour Party, Alan Kelly TD is obviously correct when he says that the Government should be organising the production of those masks NOW!8

OTHER MEASURES AND MONITORING

          Face-masks help you not to spread droplets on to other people – and you don’t know for sure whether you have the virus or not, because you can carry it for a few days before it starts to show. Good face-masks will help you not catch it from someone else too. But you really need gloves as well and a good procedure in removing the gloves and face-mask, combined with hand-washing. And of course, social distancing. To be honest, with all those being practiced, there should be no need for 2km distance from home limits on exercise or travel – or even for telling older people to stay indoors, vulnerable to depression and ill-health through lack of exercise and even to accidents in the home.

But, for effective measures, don’t they/ we need to know who is infected and who is not? And where the major infection points in society are to be found? Yes — and for that we need mass testing, which our Government has not been doing because of how the health service has been run down. Not even with sending test samples away (to Germany) for analysis!9

And then we need tracking, tracing where people think they may have got infected, who they may have infected in turn, testing them …. the proper pandemic scientific procedures. But our Government is hardly doing that either. We get the following estimates10 of infection sources based on people who tested positive: 34% close contact, 63% community contact, 3% travel abroad.11 But what do these categories actually mean?

OK, “travel abroad” is reasonably clear. “Close contact” might mean family, close friends, lovers, elderly relatives in nursing homes (more about them further on). But “community contact”, which accounts for almost two-thirds of the total? Would these be neighbours, workmates? You know what I suspect? Shops and supermarkets – customers and staff – are a big section. Why? Because most people visit them at least weekly and the precautions taken there have been all along — and are still – inadequate. But the authorities don’t do the tracking to find out. Or if they have, they’re not telling us.

Customers in a supermarket (none seem to be taking any precautions other than perhaps social distancing). (Photo source: Internet)

The fact that it was only last week that a high cluster of infection around meat-processing plants was revealed shows the need for testing, tracking and testing again and how little work on that level is being done. Ten sites with 566 people infected12 so far is not something that should be coming to light over two months after the first case was identified in Ireland.

Who will carry out the monitoring, ensuring best practice and compliance? I’d like to believe that whichever body the Government sets up will do a good job but unfortunately I doubt it. It was left up to the supermarkets and shops to monitor their own provisions and they did it late and inadequately13. The Government at first even left it up to the pubs whether to remain open or not! Now this body appointed by them, aware of the lack of enthusiasm of the Government to interfere with the business of making money, will be supervising and monitoring every factory, shop, depot and farm? Really?

In this small relatively low-industry state of the 26 Counties, the Health & Safety Agency recorded 22,500 non-fatal workplace accidents reported to it for the year 2017-2018, along with 48 fatalities. Remember that all generic studies maintain that most and possibly all accidents at work are avoidable and result from lack of awareness or of appropriate training, or of fatigue as well as from bad practices, bad supervision and badly-maintained equipment.

The understaffed HSA is not adequate to the task of monitoring even a representative sample of workplaces and relies a lot on accidents and breaches of regulations being reported to it; the trade unions in general are not up to the job either, especially with the low percentage of union membership of recent decades.14 So whichever agency is set up for monitoring good working practices during the pandemic, even if such adequate practices have been identified and published, is not likely to be up to the job either.

Masked Clerical Female Workers during Spanish ‘Flu pandemic 1918, probably USA.
(Image sourced: Internet)

But at the very least that agency should publish its general guidelines and insist each workplace publish the specific procedures in place along with the underlying rationale. Then at least employees and public can see what they are, complain if they are felt to be inadequate and report those that are not being practiced. And gloves and face-masks at least should be provided for all, with work practices adapted to allow for them.

THE DISPOSABLE PEOPLE

          As soon as the pandemic took hold in other countries, a high percentage of infected people were known to be healthcare workers – around 10% as an average. Even if you didn’t realise straight away that nursing homes were going to have a high rate of infection, as soon as you thought about healthcare workers you’d be quick getting to that point (and one step away from thinking about homeless hostels and direct provision centres etc too). Once you thought of the high vulnerability of those facilities, you’d make special provisions for them, wouldn’t you?

But no. No provision at all until a few weeks ago. No special issuing of guidelines for staff and visitors, insufficient PPE (protective equipment etc), low admission rates to ICUs for the infected ….. According to stats published at the weekend, 855 coronavirus-19 deaths have been associated with care homes and 740 of those were residents. And since the total deaths recorded within the state at that point were 1,429, well over half the deaths have taken place in care homes.

A shocking rate of attrition out of ineptitude for which the Government and the National Public Health Emergency Team should be held responsible. Or …. was it even worse than that? These facilities contain, on the whole, people who are no longer economically active, people some might even consider a drain on society’s resources. And often low-paid migrant workers caring for them. Could it be that they were all just considered “disposable”?

end.

FOOTNOTES

2I use the term here to mean the whole of the State’s territory, well aware that a true national perspective would include not just the 26 Counties but also the Six County British colony.

9Remember how the smear tests samples for cervical cancer were also sent away for testing somewhere else?

11Yes and most intelligent people wonder why the Government allowed people to travel to an international rugby match in a country swamped with the virus and, even worse, not have them quarantined upon their return. And for heaven’s sake, why people can still leave and arrive at our air and marine ports and sit on planes next to one another with cabin crew having to bend close to attend to them during the flight, do a turnaround and bend close to another group of passengers on the flight back.

14And failed significantly even in ensuring protection of workers from infection during the pandemic so far.

REFERENCES AND FURTHER INFORMATION

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/28/germans-urged-to-stay-home-amid-covid-19-infection-rate-fears?

https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-cases-in-germany-rise-after-lockdown-restrictions-end-2020-5?r=US&IR=T

Click to access hsa_stats_report_2019.pdf

THE ISSUE UNMASKED

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 10 mins)

To wear a face-mask or not?  This article seeks to clarify some of the issues of conflicting advice around the advisability or otherwise of people who are not healthcare frontline staff wearing face-masks.

          There has been some discussion around this on social media and in my sphere some of it particularly tense and even illogical. I have observed at a number of times throughout my life that the reaction of some people to a stressful situation is to create more stress around it – as human behaviour one assumes it must have a function, though I find it difficult to see what it might be. However, the question, with possible repercussions to general safety from the Coronavirus-19 is a serious one.

It is worth remarking that some bad advice and information about the Coronavirus-19 has circulated on social media and even been given by Governments. I myself have seen advice on drinking hot drinks as an effective remedy and I am aware that the President of an East European country claimed that drinking vodka killed the virus or prevented one contracting it. Why anyone should wish to put out unscientific advice about such a serious matter is beyond me but it has happened a number of times from different sources.

FACT AND ARGUMENT

          There is general agreement that the primary method of contamination by the virus, especially in the case of no physical contact with an infected person, is by droplets from a person who has the virus passing it on to us. The method of passing these droplets might be sneezing, coughing, spitting (for example unintentionally, during speech). The virus then lingers on our face until we convey it to our mouths by touch from the infected area, or by inhalation etc, from whence it proceeds to infect our lungs.

That being so, it is completely counter-intuitive and appears to contradict logic to say that masks would be of no preventive use whatsoever. However, intuition is sometime wrong and many times what has been promoted as “common sense” has turned out to be merely an expression of prejudice or ignorance – or belief in an individual or institution. So maybe a face-mask provides no protection, right? Well no, because frontline health practitioners are wearing them and in fact there is some agitation about their not being available in sufficient numbers for their use.

A SCIENTIFIC ARGUMENT AGAINST EFFICACY OF FACE-MASKS?

          OK, so what is being said by the main group of face-mask-usefulness deniers, from my observation, is that the particular face masks used by those health professionals, with a filter, is a good defence against contracting the virus from direct contact with infected droplets to the face. But only those. OK, that might be so, in which case we’d expect to be given a rational scientific reason. However, no-one arguing with me has supplied such an explanation nor have I seen scientific argument justifying it. In fact, I have seen, quite apart from my “common sense”, scientific evidence that seems to show that other types of face-mask do indeed help to prevent direct droplet infection.

So why are some authorities arguing against it? A conspiracy theorist might suggest those who rule us don’t want the expense of supplying us with those masks but, considering the effect this pandemic is having on our economy, I would be inclined to dismiss that explanation. What I tend to believe instead is that the authorities fear that wearing such masks will give us a false sense of security, leading to incautious behaviour and a greater chance of contracting and spreading the virus.

If that were so, why don’t they give us the best advice all around about face-masks but still strongly advise us about the other precautions, such as wearing gloves, washing hands with soap, keeping a distance of six feet etc? I would assume they don’t do that because they don’t trust us, they think most of us are stupid. The behaviour of some during this pandemic would indeed seem to prove their point which in some ways might not be surprising; if you deprive people of responsibility for most things that regulate their lives, it’s somewhat contradictory to then expect them to act responsibly. But in fact, most people have been acting responsibly – and caringly. And neither the Government, the HSE or the capitalist concerns are in a great position to be lecturing us on our lack of responsibility – but I leave that for another day’s discussion.

I am not a scientist and I have not done a huge amount of research but I think I have done enough to convince me that wearing of most kinds of face-mask in public does indeed provide some protection against direct contaminated droplet contact. And in fact, even many of those who say it would not give the wearer any protection do admit that it would give other people some protection from an infected person. And since one can be carrying the virus for some days without exhibiting signs of it, surely everyone should be wearing a face-mask in public? EVERYONE!

When I was employed managing teams working with homeless people and/ or substance misusers, our health safety advice was to assume that anyone we worked with was HIV positive. Because you can never know for sure.

The advice being put out from the HSE is that in the case of this virus no face-masks except the special ones work. However, the World Health Organisation began in the early days by saying it would help but lately says only that it would only help to prevent its spread. Well, well …. only help to prevent its spread? ONLY?

COUNTRIES ENCOURAGING OR ENFORCING GENERAL FACE-MASK WEARING

A number of Asian countries insist that the level of transmission in their countries is much lower than in some European countries and they ascribe that to the universal wearing of face-masks. Czech Republic says the same. I have not seen statistics to confirm those claim but nor have I seen a statistical refutation. The US Centre for Disease Control recommends everyone wear face-masks.

I have seen reported an experiment which seems to prove that the droplets do not pass through a cotton-and-paper barrier (see the accompanying video for the experiment and also practical demonstration on how to construct such a reusable face-mask from a T-shirt). I have also read an article in the well-respected medical journal The Lancet, discussing the scientific merits of the arguments for and against.

I think the evidence tends to support the case that wearing most kinds of face-mask does help protect the wearer but the fact that they help in preventing the spread to others should be enough on its own to encourage us all to wear them.

There are some social issues with wearing the masks that have emerged in some parts of the world and I list the ones I have come across:

  • STIGMA: People may shun someone wearing a mask as they consider the wearers to be infected. So what, if they have an effective role? And isn’t countering this a job for the responsible authorities, community organisations etc?

  • EXCLUSION: Some facilities may refuse to permit entry to people not wearing face-masks, as is apparently the case in Hong Kong. But the exclusion has a fairly simple solution.

  • EXPENSE & RACKETEERING: Yes, we saw some examples of that here in Ireland with some suppliers of latex etc. gloves and hand sanitiser gel. If we learn how to make effective ones we can overcome this problem but, in any case, the benefits of wearing the mask outweigh the negative aspects involved in supply.

Image sourced: Internet

WHO SHOULD WEAR THE MOST EFFECTIVE FACE-MASKS?

          Some people have put forward the argument that no-one but the front-line health professionals should wear the most effective models and I have even seen posters on the internet telling people not to wear one unless they are infected. Their reasoning is that there are not enough of these available to supply those who need them most. Well that seems to make sense except that their condemnation is often directed at the occasional non-healthworker person wearing such a mask rather than at the Government and HSE which have not laid in sufficient stocks.

Is it an issue that many people are wearing the special face-masks and that is the reason health-workers are not being supplied with them? Certainly there has been no evidence of this in Ireland.

Some concede that certain high-risk groups are entitled to wear the special face-masks also, which is very gracious of them.

On a personal note, my special mask was given to me as a gift, I did not seek it nor was I aware of its special nature when I received it. In addition, on a number of counts I do belong to a high-risk group; readers are free to believe or disbelieve me but I do not intend to explain that or to justify it.

On this and other general questions I would encourage people to concentrate on the overall issue and to be a part of the solution rather than add to the problem.

Feel free to comment on the scientific and practical points made in this article but please do not respond with purely personal opinions or those substantiated by restricted sources (e.g “HSE professionals have told me”) and without dealing with sources and points listed here.

End.

REFERENCES:

World Health Organisation (somewhat equivocal): https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks

European Centre for Disease Control (also somewhat equivocal): https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/COVID-19-use-face-masks-community.pdf

Article containing video with scientific test report and instructions on making an effective mask: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/apr/06/how-to-make-no-sew-face-mask-coronavirus?fbclid=IwAR06lGIjK_BT-IDrU0E9ztTvudsFVf1B48e-2XSKEK5n1IZzA0kKxT0MmdM

Guardian article: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/11/can-a-face-mask-protect-me-from-coronavirus-covid-19-myths-busted

Lancet article: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(20)30134-X/fulltext

NATURE DOESN’T CARE

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 minutes)

A number of people have commented on Nature proceeding unaffected by the crisis of humans faced with the current Coronavirus pandemic. Although not entirely unaffected, it certainly seems that is so but it is a reflection of our generally subjective view of the natural world around us that we should be surprised at all.

The grass does not grow for us though we may have sown some of it, the leaves do not open nor flowers bloom to please our eyes, the birds do not sing to bring us pleasure through our ears, nor do blossoms and flowers pump out fragrances to please our nostrils. They are engaged in the deadly serious business of alimentation and procreation.

Here in early April the leaves unfurling and already unfurled from their winter sleep inside their branches of willow, sycamore, birch, rowan, elder, lime, alder, oak and chestnut will not notice much difference this year as they spread their catchers to collect the rays of the sun, the chlorophyll working to feed a new year’s growth. The ash is a little behind, its hard black protective bud-covers about to break open. Flower racemes are already well advanced on the invasive and poisonous cherry laurel and making a good start on the horse chestnut tree. If they are aware of anything, it is probably that suddenly the air has become much cleaner, as the volume of industrial and vehicle air-pollutants has suddenly dropped dramatically.

Weeping willows (saileach shilte) along the Tulcadh (Tolka), Griffith Park, Dublin. early April.
(Photo source: D.Breatnach)

Not that it’s all peaceful out there – they all have their own struggles, competing for light and moisture, resisting attacks by insects, fungi and even other plants like ivy.

The robin (spideog), blackbird (londubh) and finch (glasán) are not singing for us nor even “merrily”, as the poets would have it – it’s a serious business, attracting a mate, fighting off competitors, then building a nest and raising young in safety from predators. The lowering of the air pollution level might bring a bloom in some invertebrate populations, animals without backbones like insects and snails, which would be welcomed to feed the birds’ young.

Birds (éanlaith) that will probably miss our usual level of activity will be those heavily dependent on human activity and some of its waste products, i.e the city pigeons (colúir) and seagulls (faoileáin), while the latter at sea might well do well from less commercial fishing and pollution. The fish will certainly benefit from a reduction in human activity.

In the streams and rivers the finger-length three-spined stickleback male will soon be establishing and defending his territory, where he will build a nest into which to entice an egg-filled female, there to lay her many eggs for him to fertilise. She’ll be off then, thank you ma’am and dad will raise the young until they are capable of free-swimming and feeding themselves, though still tiny. These are those that in parts of Ireland are called “pinkeens”, an interesting combination of two languages: the English “pink” and the diminutive ending “ín” in Irish (however the Irish name is completely different: “garmachán”). Look at the female and you’ll see no hint of the “pink” but the male in full breeding colour is something to see alright: throat and chest in bright red, an almost luminous green upper body and head with bright blue eyes.

Male Three-spined Stickleback in mating colours showing bright red belly and blue eyes.  This is a sub-species from British Columbia — the Irish version has a green head and body.  (Source photo: Internet)

In the city, with less waste on the street, the population of rats (francaigh) and mice (lucha) might be in for some tougher times, as might the foxes (sionnaigh). Developing a life-style as a scavenger on the refuse of other life-forms can be very beneficial but such populations are vulnerable to the fate of their unconscious benefactors.

Much animal and plant life benefits from the activity of humans, it is true – but a lot more suffers from it and would not be harmed at all by our disappearance.

A stand of different species of trees with cherry in blossom, Griffith Park, early April.
(Photo source: D.Breatnach)

End.

James Connolly on St. Patrick’s Day

The National Festival

by James Connolly

From Workers’ Republic, 18 March 1916.
Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.
Proofread by Chris Clayton, August 2007.

James Connolly poster by Jim Fitzpatrick.
(Image sourced: Internet)

The question often arises: Why do Irishmen celebrate the festival of their national saint, in view of the recently re-discovered truth that he was by no means the first missionary to preach Christianity to the people of Ireland? It is known now beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Christian religion had been preached and practised in Ireland long before St. Patrick, that Christian churches had been established, and it is probable that the legend about the shamrock was invented in some later generation than that of the saint. Certainly the shamrock bears no place of any importance in early Celtic literature, and the first time we read of it as having any reference to or bearing on religion in Ireland occurs in the work of a foreigner – an English monk.

But all that notwithstanding there is good reason why Irish men and women should celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. They should celebrate it for the same reason as they should honour the green flag of Ireland, despite the fact that there is no historical proof that the Irish, in the days of Ireland’s freedom from foreign rule, ever had a green flag as a national standard, or indeed ever had a national flag at all

Shamrock for sale in Moore Street last year, one of the few times in the year they are permitted to sell something outside the vegetable-fruit permit. They were not finding many buyers during the past week.
Photo: D.Breatnach

The claim of the 17th of March to be Ireland’s national festival, the claim of St. Patrick to be Ireland’s national saint, the claim of the shamrock to be Ireland’s national plant, the claim of the green flag to be Ireland’s national flag rests not on the musty pages of half-forgotten history but on the affections and will of the Irish people.

Sentiment it may be. But the man or woman who scoffs at sentiment is a fool. We on this paper respect facts, and have a holy hatred of all movements and causes not built upon truth. But sentiment is often greater than facts, because it is an idealised expression of fact – a mind picture of truth as it is seen by the soul, unhampered by the grosser dirt of the world and the flesh.

The Irish people, denied comfort in the present, seek solace in the past of their country; the Irish mind, unable because of the serfdom or bondage of the Irish race to give body and material existence to its noblest thoughts, creates an emblem to typify that spiritual conception for which the Irish race laboured in vain. If that spiritual conception of religion, of freedom, of nationality exists or existed nowhere save in the Irish mind, it is nevertheless as much a great historical reality as if it were embodied in a statute book, or had a material existence vouched for by all the pages of history.

It is not the will of the majority which ultimately prevails; that which ultimately prevails is the ideal of the noblest of each generation. Happy indeed that race and generation in which the ideal of the noblest and the will of the majority unite.

In this hour of her trial Ireland cannot afford to sacrifice any one of the things the world has accepted as peculiarly Irish. She must hold to her highest thoughts, and cleave to her noblest sentiments. Her sons and daughters must hold life itself as of little value when weighed against the preservation of even the least important work of her separate individuality as a nation.

Therefore we honour St. Patrick’s Day (and its allied legend of the shamrock) because in it we see the spiritual conception of the separate identity of the Irish race – an ideal of unity in diversity, of diversity not conflicting with unity.

Magnificent must have been the intellect that conceived such a thought; great must have been the genius of the people that received such a conception and made it their own.

On this Festival then our prayer is: Honour to St. Patrick the Irish Apostle, and Freedom to his people.

James Connolly monument, Beresford Place, Dublin.

COMMENT:

I seem to recall that Connolly wrote something else about celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, perhaps when he was living and working in the USA but can’t find it now.  For similar reasons to what he lays out here, I supported and indeed organised public celebration of the feast day in London.

And I might have agreed with Connolly in the case of Ireland at the time he wrote it: the whole country under British occupation, in the middle of the First World War with thousands of Irish casualties in the British armed forces and coming up to the 1916 Rising.

But now?  I don’t think so, neither with what it celebrates nor how it is celebrated, which always makes me want to get out of Dublin.  Republic Day, which Connolly was party to creating but could perhaps not have anticipated being a national festival day, is what we should be focusing on now, I think.

 

REFERENCE:

https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1916/03/natlfest.htm

 

SHOP STAFF WITHOUT PROTECTION

Diarmuid Breatnach
(Reading time: 1 minute)
I went shopping tonight. No, not a stock-up raid — actual shopping. Of course, I forgot the actual thing I went to get — toilet paper. No shit! (well, not until I buy some, anyway).  So I got some other stuff I would need soon.
Irritated customer at self-checkout machine.
(Source photo: Internet)
I was glad for once, especially for the safety of the staff, to see the self-checkout machines there and happy, for a change, to use them. Even though the machine could not understand why my bag was “too heavy” (a small-medium backpack!). So a member of staff had to keep approaching to tell the machine I was all right and to carry on, which kind of negated the whole safety aspect.

Of course safety has nothing to do with why these machines were installed, nor even customer satisfaction but to reduce the number of employed staff (who still have to keep attending to machines that misunderstand the shoppers or vice versa).

One of the many models of hand-sanitiser available commercially.
(Source photo: Internet)
But NOT ONE OF THE STAFF WAS WEARING DISPOSABLE LATEX GLOVES OR FACE MASKS.
NOR DID I SEE A HAND SANITISER DISPENSER.
THEIR EMPLOYERS SHOULD BE OBLIGED TO PROVIDE THESE BY LAW IF THEY DO NOT DO SO VOLUNTARILY.
end.

GREYHOUND PROTESTERS SPLIT AS SOME CAVE IN TO SHELBOURNE INTIMIDATION

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 5 minutes

A legal offensive by the management of the Shelbourne Greyhound Racing stadium failed to prevent protesters picketing the venue but did succeed in splitting their alliance.  The Irish Council for Civil Rights voiced its concern over the implications of the legal case.

Advertisement on the side of a Dublin public transport bus.
(Source photo: Internet)

This happened back in January and sorry I didn’t get to it then. However, the campaign is ongoing and lessons of the case are still relevant.

Six protesters, who became known as the “The Greyhound Six”, were named in application for an injunction by the Greyhound Stadium, along with “persons unknown”.  The legal case followed on local residents receiving a letter threatening them for allegedly supporting the Stadium, a letter which the campaigners deny sending and which looks more like dirty tricks by Greyhound racing supporters.

However, when the case came to court it transpired that four of them, without consulting the other two, had agreed to do a deal with the Stadium. This resulted in all six being banned from protesting within 50 metres of the entrance to the Stadium.

The two who had not agreed to the deal, Laura Broxson and Tawnie Ocampo, appealed the judgement to the High Court and won, Shelbourne Park also having to pay the court costs.

The Four Courts complex, Dublin, containing the High Court, viewed from Ó Donabháin Rosa Bridge.
(Photo source: Wikipedia)

What does all this mean in effect?

  • It is clearly undemocratic and unwise for defendants to decide on a course of action without consulting their co-defendants; they don’t have to agree with them but they should at least consult with them

  • The likelihood is that had all the Six stood together against the injunction, they would all have won

  • Had they done so, future targets of protests would have thought twice before seeking an injunction against protestors on a public highway

The unilateral action of the Four not only restricted their own protesting but potentially endangered the rights of other protesters in similar circumstances, a point taken up by the Irish Council of Civil Liberties, which had themselves joined to the High Court appeal and had this to say:

ICCL welcomes the settlement today in the High Court in the case of Shelbourne Greyhound Stadium v Broxson and Others.

ICCL became aware of the case in December and sought to become joined in the case, as we believed that nature of the injunctions being sought in the case gave rise to serious issues concerning the right to peaceful protest. In particular we were concerned at the nature and extent of the injunctions being sought, and the fact that injunctions were being sought not only against named defendants but also against “persons unknown”.

The High Court joined ICCL as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) in January, recognising that ICCL is an expert body with regard to civil liberties and human rights, and that important issues concerning the right to protest arose in the case.

ICCL was represented in the case by Sheehan and Company Solicitors and by Conor Dignam SC and Mark William Murphy BL. This legal representation was on a pro bono basis supported by the Voluntary Assistance Scheme of the Bar of Ireland.

Image sourced: Internet

GREYHOUND RACING IS CRUEL

          Many, perhaps most people will be under the impression that greyhound racing is a harmless sport. However the campaigners say that quite apart from injuries suffered by dogs on the tracks, the number of dogs bred for this activity means that a huge number of dogs are killed because of being considered not up to competition standard, whether as young dogs or those too old to race. Campaigners claim that over 6,000 dogs are killed annually and some animal welfare organisations believe the figure may be as high as 10,000. “Surplus” dogs have been proven to be sold abroad for meat and dogs of racing or stud standard have also been exported for racing, though both are illegal.

In addition, the demand means that greyhound bitches may be fertilised more often than healthy, constantly churning out pups for the industry.

It is the commercial drive that brings these results and the support of the betting public that sustains it – but not that alone, since the Irish State supports the industry with an annual grant of 16.8 million euro. Recently in the Dáil an attempt to remove this state subsidy failed as most TDs voted in favour of continuing it. Few countries apart from Britain and Ireland have greyhound racings stadia – and none in Europe.

Should you wish to support the campaign against greyhound racing and live in Dublin, you may wish to attend the protests on Saturday evenings and, when Tuesday evening racing resumes, on that day too.

end. 

Photo: D.Breatnach
Line of protesters facing Shelbourne Greyhound Racing Stadium July 2019 (there was another line on the opposite side too) (Photo: D.Breatnach)

REFERENCES AND FURTHER INFORMATION

Organisations: OPAGE (Ordinary People Against Greyhound Exploitation) and ARA (Animal Rights Alliance).

Statement of the NARA campaign (representing two of those who did not make a deal with Shelbourne Park, the greyhound racing venue): https://www.facebook.com/NARAcampaignsIRELAND/photos/a.273010276055655/2781577838532207/?type=3&theater

Media report before High Court appeal: https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/greyhound-track-protestors-delighted-with-outcome-as-they-reach-settlement-with-shelbourne-park-978467.html

RTÉ Investigates program “Running For Their Lives”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYTb2qBjlMM

Official and company reactions to the RTÉ documentary: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/sponsors-horrified-by-rt%C3%A9-programme-on-greyhound-racing-1.3942232

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