History Matters

Economics is usually discussed in a vacuum devoid of any reference to history or culture. The economy is viewed as a place without a past and little distinction is made between policies implemented in Japan, Scandinavia or America. However, in reality the past shapes the future far more than we realise. The state we’re in depends hugely on the actions and events of decades or even generations earlier. Economies were not born yesterday; they are hugely shaped by what came before. In other words, history matters. Continue reading “History Matters”

Was The Irish Famine Genocide?

Some people claim that the Great Famine was an act of genocide committed by the British Empire against the Irish people. This theory is most popular among Irish-Americans (who strangely enough are more nationalist than people from Ireland) and on the internet, though it has little if any credence in Ireland. It has been booted out of conspiracy theory land after one of the most respected Irish historians; Tim Pat Coogan supported the allegation in his new book, The Famine Plot. Continue reading “Was The Irish Famine Genocide?”

The Yugoslav Model

On a scorching hot day last July, I wandered off the motorway into Belgrade and past crumbling tower blocks and up the steps to what was once an impressive villa. Now the steps were cracked and the fountain was dry and empty. I was entering the Mausoleum of Tito, the Communist ruler of Yugoslavia from 1945 to 1980. Beside his final resting place was an information centre, part of which was dedicated to Yugoslavia’s experiment in Worker Self-Management, as it was called. It was here that I was introduced to an idea I had never considered before, that of workers democratically running their workplace the same way democracy runs the government. Did this novel experiment work? Continue reading “The Yugoslav Model”

Double Standards On Gaza

Is an Israeli life worth more than a Palestinian life? Much of the commentary on the bombing of Gaza seems to suggest so. 5 Israelis and 156 Palestinians have been killed, yet the story seems to be how Israel is the victim. Great emphasis is put on Israel’s right to exist, little thought is given to the fact that Palestinians do not have a state of their own. Israel claims the right to defend itself while denying Palestinians right to do the same. It is a tragedy when an Israeli is killed, while little attention is paid to vast number of dead Palestinians. Great attention is given to Palestinian extremists while Israeli extremists are ignored. The history and root causes of the conflict are ignored and little effort is made to understand the conflict. Continue reading “Double Standards On Gaza”

The World The Day I Was Born

On my 21st birthday today I’m reflecting on how much the world has changed since the day I was born, October 21st 1991. Back then the Soviet Union still existed, the Troubles were still ongoing and Charles Haughey was Taoiseach. Homosexuality was illegal as was divorce. Old Ireland was on its last legs, we were still a white Irish Catholic country. Emigration was still common and unemployment was high (the more things change the more they stay the same). Immigration and multiculturalism had yet to arrive. The Catholic Church was still strong and the sex scandals had yet to hit. People still went to Mass. I was born right at the end of an era when the old ways were on their last legs. Continue reading “The World The Day I Was Born”

The Other Civil War

There was a civil war in Ireland between 1922 and 1923 but we rarely speak about it. It was such a destructive bitter conflict that the wounds were too deep to discuss. However there was another civil war happening at the same time that is even less discussed. This split was just as bitter, but instead of being centred on the Treaty it was based on something much deeper. It was a split between rich and poor, haves and have-nots, landlords and peasants. It is a story of Soviets, White Guards, sabotage, strikes, land seizures, violence and burnings. It was nothing short of a second civil war. Continue reading “The Other Civil War”

Irish Soviets 1919-23

Workers throwing out the boss, hoisting a red flag and proclaiming a Soviet are not something that you would normally associate with Irish history. That sort of stuff is normally presumed to have happened in Europe but not Ireland. Most history books describe all Irish people as being united with the sole aim of driving the British out. Yet Ireland was caught in a wave of Socialism similar to that in Italy and France. During the War of Independence over 100 Soviets were set up in Ireland. Although it is now forgotten, many thought Bolshevism was a greater threat to British rule than Sinn Fein. Continue reading “Irish Soviets 1919-23”

1919 Limerick Soviet

Ireland is probably the last place in the world that you expect workers to host a red flag and seize control of a business let alone an entire city. That sort of stuff is usually considered too continental for our liking. Yet this is exactly what happened in 1919. A soviet was declared and the workers seized control of essential supplies. They even printed their own money. Nor was this some irrelevant backwater but rather Ireland’s fourth largest city. Continue reading “1919 Limerick Soviet”

Laissez Faire And The Irish Great Famine

Right wing libertarian politics have never really caught on in Ireland. Part of this is due to the memory of the Great Famine of 1845-8. The Famine, though caused by blight, was made worse by the prevailing conservative doctrine of laissez faire. This was the prime example of politicians believing the free market will solve everything, that it would be unethical for the government to intervene and that helping the poor would only make them lazy and dependent. This was an experiment of a world with only minimal government, of free market principles in practice, the result was so disastrous that a million people died. Continue reading “Laissez Faire And The Irish Great Famine”

Magnificent Mostar

Mostar is an absolutely stunning town that is definitely worth visiting. It has a glorious medieval feel, a captivating and enticing river of gorgeous colours and of course, its famous bridge, a massive stone construction whose destruction came to symbolise the war in Bosnia. Meticulously reconstructed, it is now one of the most popular tourist sights in the Balkans.

Continue reading “Magnificent Mostar”