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The Shock of Climate Change, the Awe of Geo-Engineering

A vast cloud of smoke issues from an active volcano; streams of lava pour from the cone.
Past volcanic eruptions serve as a warning against solar geoengineering

Even if human society immediately managed a complete stop to the emission of carbon, we will fail to achieve the target of the Paris Accord of 2016, of keeping the increase in planetary temperatures to under 2% above pre-industrial levels. And of course, carbon emissions, far from coming to an end are increasing. There is no doubt that dramatic climate change is underway and it is not slowing down.

We are in very big trouble as a species unless we invent miracle solution to global warming. And as the crisis crows, so does momentum behind a project that has striking parallels with the Manhattan Project, the 1941 assembly of scientists at Los Alamos that eventually led to nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the danger (that remains with us) of nuclear winter for the planet.

The project I’m referring to is that of Geo-engineering the planet’s atmosphere and in particular, the plan to apply the stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) of chemical compounds. The idea is to pump sulphates (dust) into to the upper atmosphere so that solar radiation is back-scattered into space.

Behind the push for a Geo-engineered solution to global warming are backers such as the Bill Gates Foundation and the idea is gathering momentum. You can see the growing number of geo-engineering projects via map.geoengineeringmonitor.org, which shows that there were more than eight hundred projects in 2017 (compared to three hundred in 2012).

SAI is an idea that will work. We know it does because when, in the past, such as in 1815, massive volcanic eruptions blasted dust into the stratosphere, the next year or two saw global temperatures drop by as much as five per cent. SAI scientists are attempting to recreate the effect of these volcanoes artificially.

A cartoon of a volcano beside a ballon, both pushing dust above the stratosphere. Sunlight, drawn as a yellow arrow, partially bounces off the veil of dust.
Solar engineering mimics the effect of powerful volcanos
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SPICE_SRM_overview.jpg

One of the parallels between the Geo-engineering drive and the Manhattan Project, is that several of the scientists involved in this research have claimed that the technology will never be used. They are developing the technology… ‘just in case’. But as the climate crisis unfolds, panic measures will be implemented and any new technology that we have available to address global warming will be considered in earnest, no matter now risky.

And there are massive risks with this apparent solution to global warming.

One important point to make about SAI is that it would not change the density of carbon in the atmosphere and therefore it would have no impact on effects such as the acidification of the seas. Secondly, SAI could allow companies and countries to avoid a fundamental solution to the burning of fossil fuels. In fact, petrochemical companies have expressed an interest in supplying the sulphates needed for the project, which would be paid-for by taxpayers. If implemented, SAI represents a huge win for them.

The most common objection to SAI geo-engineering is a strong one: how do we know what the consequence will be? Predictions of what will happen depend on computer models for the atmosphere and at the current time, these models are nowhere near accurate enough to be confident about the impact of SAI. Given that important global phenomena like the North Atlantic Oscillation and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation have yet to be successfully modeled, we just cannot predict what will happen on a global scale, let alone a regional scale. It is very likely that filling the stratosphere with sulphates will not only cool the planet but it will create major turbulence and extreme weather events. Particularly important here is the effect on rainfall: it is quite possible an overall cooling of the planet through SAI is accompanied by devastating floods and droughts at a regional level.

My own concern about SAI arises from my research into the societal consequences of major volcanic eruptions. Let’s suppose humanity starts on the SAI approach, we are then caught in a very dangerous situation, where every year we will have to keep up the practice filling the stratosphere with particles. And as soon as we stop, the underlying crisis of high planetary temperatures will reassert themselves. But what would happen if during this process a major volcano erupted? The dumping of tonnes of dust into the stratosphere on top of the human effort will have devastating consequences. There will be a year or two without summers, crop failure on a massive scale and enormous economic dislocation as planes are grounded for months.

I’m looking at the medieval world in particular, where life was far more precarious than our own. But we cannot be complacent about the potential for resilience today. Modern society in some ways is more vulnerable than that of our medieval predecessors. Just-in-time production and the inter-dependency of the world economy means that if international trade is grounded for several months, the consequences would be shocking.

After the 2010 Icelandic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, air traffic was affected in some regions for up to a month. This was a volcanic eruption of about one tenth the size of those I’ve been researching in the historical record.

My point is that as the geo-engineering option becomes more appealing in the face of increasingly damaging consequences arising from global warming we will lose track of the bigger historical picture in the hope of a short-term fix. But what this wider perspective demonstrates is that sooner or later a major eruption will happen that brings its own challenges. And if we have already saturated the atmosphere artificially with sulphates when it does, we are going to bring about a year or two of unforeseen, incredibly cold years of massive economic dislocation and crop failure.

There is no governing body that can stop a figure like Donald Trump from beginning this process. Geo-engineering on sufficient scale to cool the planet would cost about a billion dollars. That’s relatively cheap to implement. And this brings imperial considerations into play. There is nothing to stop a rich country, which also is relatively protected from unpredictable consequences from going ahead on their own. Nothing, that is, except the opposition of their own population. That’s why awareness of the dangers of geo-engineering needs to grow, especially among those protesting on 20 September.

This post was originally written for We Only Want the Earth, a Facebook page curated by Dave Lordan to build support for the global climate strike 20 September 2019.

You can download an academic chapter that deals with the topic in greater depth by clicking here.

And below is an interview between myself and Pat Kenny of Newstalk about the dangers of GeoEngineering:

O’Devaney Gardens: Public Lands for Public Housing

Satellite view of O'Devaney Gardens, Dublin.
Dublin City Councillors have allowed a development on O’Devaney Gardens that will fail people on low and middle incomes who need housing.

Councillor John Lyons calls for resignations over the way DCC was misled over O’Devaney Gardens

UPDATE 18/11/19

Opposition to Dublin City Council’s plan for O’Devaney Gardens rocketed on 18 November 2019 when it emerged that the council voted through a plan two weeks’ earlier (see below) that was reported to the council as a new one, with increased affordable housing by way of new cost rental units, when in fact the Minister, Eoghan Murphy, had not signed off on any changes to the original, rejected plan.

A letter obtained by Sinn Féin under the Freedom of Information act details comments from the Minister including statements that refute the promise of social and affordable housing:

In order to repay the required financing, the rental levels would likely have to be set at, or close to, market rates. This would effectively negate the concept of providing affordable homes for rent.

… it seems highly unlikely that the purchase of private units from the developer… can deliver its intended goal of affordable rental.

Independent Left Councillor John Lyons will move a suspension of DCC’s standing orders at the annual budget meeting 18/11/19 to deal with this crisis and attempt to win a plan for government funding towards a project that guarantees a large allocation of affordable housing for O’Devaney Gardens. This will give parties such as Labour, Greens and Social Democrats an opportunity to recognise that voting for the plan of 4 November was a massive mistake and a betrayal of those on low and middle incomes who elected them. Failing this, these councillors should resign.

As John Lyons explains:

I believe that all councillors from Fianna Fail, the Social Democrats, the Green Party and the Labour Party who voted in favour of gifting the prime public land at O’Devaney Gardens to the private developer Barta Capital should resign, with Fianna Fail Lord Mayor Paul McAuliffe the first to step down.

It turns out, unsurprisingly, that their private “deal” with the developer has no legal basis and did not change the percentage of affordable housing contained within the disastrous deal struck between Dublin City Council and Barta.

During the city council meeting in which the vote took place on November 4th last I posed a question to the law agent: does the new FiannaFail/SocDem/GreenParty/Labour Party “deal” materially change the
contract between DCC and Barta?

The Lord Mayor refused to allow the question to be answered. Why?

Either these councillors knew that their new deal was nothing but a fig leaf to cover up their vote to privatise public land or they were genuine in their belief that their “developer deal” was going to increase the number of affordable homes but were too incompetent to ensure that their deal was legally sound.

Either way, they should resign over this farce.

DCC gave away O’Devaney Gardens without guarantees of affordable housing

On the evening of 4 November 2019, Dublin City Council officials and councillors from a range a political parties (Fianna Fáil, Sinn Fein, Labour, Soc Dems, Greens and some Independents) handed over a hugely valuable piece of public land, owned by the people of Dublin through the local authority, to a private developer.

O’Devaney Gardens is a 14 hectare site right next to the Phoenix Park, and if developed sensibly, could have provided a huge number of social and affordable housing units on site. Independent Left Councillor John Lyons made his opposition to this plan clear after the meeting of Dublin’s councillors.

The vote tonight on the O’Devaney Gardens Public-Private Partnership deal was a red line: the plan to gift the private developer Bartra Capital one of the most valuable sites in Dublin was passed by a majority of Dublin City councillors, meaning life in this city for thousands of individuals, couples and families struggling with sky-rocketing rents, unaffordable house prices, ever-lengthening housing lists, insecure tenancy arrangements and worsening homelessness will become even more of a struggle.
I voted against this proposal as it further entrenches the neoliberal model of housing delivery pushed over the last two decades by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael: gift prime public assets to private capital, receive a paltry return and be grateful.
Is it crazy to believe in the idea that public land should be used to meet the housing needs of the public and not to enrich a wealthy property developer?
Instead, it appears that Fianna Fáil, the SocDems, Greens and Labour would rather have cosy chats with Bartra Capital than campaign for public housing on public land.
Dublin City Council can and must do better: yes, our ability to act independently is restricted by the pro-market, neoliberal, property developer-friendly Fine Gael government at a national level but this only serves to emphasize how important it is that all elected representatives who care about housing in the city oppose the sell-off of public land and link in with local, city-wide and national housing campaigns to apply the pressure and force a change in national housing policy, away from the failed pro-market policy that only favours the rich and powerful towards a more humane housing policy that treats housing as a right and not a commodity.
I will continue to campaign and call for the construction of public and affordable housing in Dublin City. This city belongs to us all not just those with the deepest pockets and the ear of the government. We need to stand up and take back the city from the vultures and speculators and their politician friends.

Councillors had a vote on the proposed section 183 disposal of the land to the developer. Unfortunately, even parties who claim to represent the interests of working class communities allowed this plan to go ahead.

The deal went through with the support of Fianna Fail, SocDems, Greens and Labour. They called for the housing minister’s resignation yet they rubber-stamped and further entrenched Fine Gael’s pro-market model of housing delivery.

List of Dublin City Councillors organised in three columns. Under a text about the motion to approve the tender to redevelop O'Devaney Gardens is a column with a heading '39 FOR' against a green background; a column with '18 AGAINST' against a red background and '1 ABSTAIN' against a grey background. Inside the columns are the names of the councillors.
Dublin City Councillors listed according to whether they voted for or against the tender plan submitted by Bartra Property to redevelop the O’Devaney Gardens site. It shows the Social Democrats, Greens, and Labour joined with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to approve the sell-off.

Sinn Féin opposed the plan, but has flipped and flopped over O’Devaney Gardens these past three years. Their manoeuvring on 4 November rings hollow. The previous council meeting had an opportunity to develop a truly public cost rental model on the site but SF, along with Labour and Greens, defeated it.

A cartoon with the headline Fine Gael: Public Private Plunder. Underneath, a Leprechaun looking like Eoghan Murphy, Housing Minister, is handing a pot of gold labelled 'O'Devaney Gardens' over to a man in a suit with top hat and bow tie. Behind them, famine figures look on.
O’Devaney Gardens sell off is a victory for Fine Gael’s pro-market support for developers and landlords. Cartoon courtesy of Foxy Slattery.

A bad deal for Dubliners out there struggling on mid-to-low wages and faced with dire homelessness, outrageous rents, unaffordable house prices and lengthening council lists.

Public land should not be used for private gain.

O’Devaney Gardens developer demands €7m: Councillor John Lyons refuses to be bullied

Ahead of the important Dublin City Council vote on Monday 7 October 2019, the head of housing for Dublin City Council, Brendan Kenny briefed the press that the developers, Bartra Capital, had demanded a €7m payment from the council. Kenny threatened that there would be a five-year delay should this not be granted by councillors and released figures that glossed over the extent to which Bartra capital were able to exploit the situation, namely by having 50% of the units for sale on the open market.

John Lyons, Independent Left councillor, made his opposition to this extra give-away clear:

I will not be threatened by the executive of the city council acting on behalf of a private developer, and so will be voting against the plan to hand over the O’Devaney Gardens site to a Bartra Capital.

We have, as Dublin City Councillors, an opportunity next Monday to stand up for the people of Dublin who are despairing at the lack of public and affordable housing in the city.

I will not support a plan that will see a private developer make massive profits from the privatization of public lands, and with such a paltry return for the council terms of social housing, as well as the complete absence of any kind of housing that could be reasonably be described as affordable.

We have a fight on our hands and so we must link up with all the campaign groups and others interested in creating a city that is accessible to all.

O’Devaney Gardens should be used to provide affordable public housing

The vote to privatise the public lands at O’Devaney Gardens was postponed until early November 2019

The main reason for the postponement seems to have been in order that the Minister for Housing can get involved on behalf of Bartra Capital. On 7 October 2019, the Minister for Housing repeated the threat made by a DCC official last week that if councillors refused to vote to gift a prime piece of public land to a private developer then nothing will happen on that site for at least half a decade.

Minister Eoghan Murphy says he wants to meet DCC councillors.

Councillor John Lyons made the following response:

To offer what exactly? I would say not much but a slightly tweaked outrageously bad deal.

So let’s use the next few weeks to build up the pressure on Fine Gael, DCC officials and the councillors currently in favour of this rotten deal.

Both Richard Barrett, the founder of Bartra Capital, and Eoghan Murphy TD share the idea that it is valid to build co-living apartment blocks. In other words, accommodation that is only a bedroom, with other facilities being shared.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy sitting on the right of RIchard Barrett, founder of Bartra Capital
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy and RIchard Barrett, founder of Bartra Capital

Infamously, Murphy has described such accommodation as like living in ‘a trendy boutique hotel’. Everyone else calls it for what it is: a rat race designed by developers who want to maximise profits.

We should be designing beautiful public environments, like the one in Vienna highlighted here by Councillor John Lyons.

In April 2019 the Irish Sun used a freedom of information request to discover that the founder of Bartra Capital wrote to Eoghan Murphy in 2017 after his becoming Minister for Housing. Richard Barrett intended to avail of the ‘passports for cash’ scheme (officially, the Immigrant Investor Programme) but civil servants replied on behalf of Murphy that the meeting would be premature.

A film made in 2013, ‘Inside Out Outside In, Stories from O’Devaney Gardens’, highlights what has now been lost: a vibrant working class community.

Fifty Years After the Birth of the modern Irish Republican Army

In August 1969 British Army arrived in Northern Ireland and despite being called ‘peacekeepers’, soon began to police the nationalist community.

In Arundhati Roy’s 2011 Walking with the Comrades there is a moment where she recaps the stories of Ajitha and Laxmi, Maoist guerrillas in eastern India. They became fighters after the Salwa Judum, a state-supported militia, attacked their villages.

The Judum came to Korseel, her village, and killed three people by drowning them in a stream. Ajitha … watched them rape six women and shoot a man in this throat.

         Comrade Laxmi, who has a long, thick plait, tells me she watched the Judum burn thirty houses in her village, Jojor. “We had no weapons then,” she says, “we could do nothing but watch.”

         Arundhati Roy is not an advocate of a guerrilla strategy and therefore was torn when she heard about an execution of a leading member of a district council carried out by the Maoists:

         I feel I ought to say something at this point. About the futility of violence, about the unacceptability of summary executions. But what should I suggest they do? Go to court? Do a dharna in Jantar Mantar, New Delhi? A rally? A relay hunger strike? It sounds ridiculous. The promoters of the New Economic Policy­—who find it so easy to say “There Is No Alternative”—should be asked to suggest an alternative Resistance Policy. A specific one, to these specific people, in this specific forest. Here. Now.

Conor Kostick sat beside Arundhati Roy.
Conor Kostick and Arundhati Roy at the Kerela Literature Festival 2019.

         I was reminded of this passage when reading the August 2019 edition of An Phoblacht and its coverage of the fiftieth anniversary of the upsurge of loyalist attacks on catholics in Belfast and the subsequent appearance of the Provisional IRA. Between 14 and 18 August 1969, eight people were shot dead and around 2,000 families, mostly catholic, turned into refugees. An Phoblacht carries the experiences of some of these who suffered the loss of loved ones, not only from the loyalist mobs but also the involvement of the RUC and B Specials in the attacks. Nine-year-old Patrick Rooney, for example, was shot in his bed when armoured cars fired indiscriminately into Divis flats.

         Ann McLarnon talks about hearing an RUC officer call out to loyalist arsonists to, ‘leave the fenian bastards to us,’ shortly before her husband Sammy was shot dead looking out from his window, having just returned from trying to put out a fire in a neighbour’s house.

         Richard McAuley, a former political prisoner, recalled:

Those organising aid for the increasing numbers of refugees in St Teresa’s needed cars and volunteers to go down to the Clonard and lower Falls to help evacuate streets. It was believed more attacks would occur. I couldn’t drive but I had willing hands. I joined up with Joe Savage who had a mini and we went to Waterville Street at the back of Clonard Monastery to take away belongings and children and elderly folks. An hour or so later, a few yards just around the corner in Bombay Street, Fifteen-year-old Gerard McAuley was shot and killed by loyalists. Bombay Street was totally destroyed in a firestorm of petrol bombs.

The defining moment in the birth of the modern IRA was ‘the Battle of St Matthews’ which took place after dark on 27 June 1970 and lasted until about 3am. Although loyalist paramilitaries, without any restraint from the British Army, began an assault on the Short Strand from several directions, they were held up by republican fighters who earned the admiration of many of the residents. And reading about these events of fifty years ago, I was brought back to the similarity of the account in Walking with the Comrades.

Imagine the warm summer night, made hotter by the flames of burning houses. Imagine the sectarian mob at the end of your street, determined to get you out because of the community you belong to, and imagine too the real danger that someone you love is about to be killed. What course of action should you take? Go to court? Sit in protest at the doors of Westminster, London? A rally? A relay hunger strike? It sounds just as ridiculous as when Arundhati Roy posed these alternatives to herself. A different policy is needed in the here and now.

Hopefully, I won’t ever face such a situation, but they have happened often enough in modern history to make it likely they will recur again. An answer has to be given to the question of what should be done. And my answer is that yes, under such circumstances the besieged community should throw up barricades and defend themselves in arms if necessary. Unlike the majority of political parties competing for power in Ireland and in India today, who howl with outrage at any expression of support for the CPI (Maoist) and the IRA, I therefore have sympathy for and a sense of solidarity with, those who took up guns against mobs that had been organised (in both cases) to intimidate and crush those wanting equality and civil rights.

Does that mean I support violence as a political strategy? In short, no. There is an enormous difference between recognising that in a particular moment, for a few hours, a community might find it necessary to battle for survival and advocating that armed struggle is a way forward for that community in the longer term. It clearly isn’t. In the case of Ireland (which I’m more familiar with, but I think the same arguments apply to India and, indeed, elsewhere), although the Battle of St Matthews led to a rapid increase in recruits for the IRA, those who joined that organisation on the basis that it was the right way to bring about change in northern Ireland were making a mistake. Several mistakes in fact.

Firstly, it wasn’t ever going to win. Or even bring about modest reform. The famous German revolutionary socialist, Rosa Luxembourg, once made the point to her more conservative labour colleagues that by choosing the path of reform rather than revolution, they were in fact, turning away even from winning reforms. Why? Because concentrating on parliamentary activity comes at the cost of belittling the types of activity that does get results, namely mass popular protest: strikes, occupations, boycotts, etc. With the advantage of hindsight it is clear that the same argument applies to politics in Northern Ireland. Tremendous energy and sacrifice by nationalists was poured into waging a campaign of armed struggle, yet the local state could not be toppled that way and insofar as concessions to the demands of the civil rights movement were made, they came in response to the broader expressions of popular discontent. There are parallels with the Irish War of Independence (1919 – 1921), where even in that much more favourable situation for an armed campaign against the British Empire, it was popular militancy that undermined Britain’s ability to rule Ireland.

Secondly, and this is related, there is an elitism in the practice of organising armed resistance to a major state that eventually introduces authoritarianism and heirarchy into the relationship between the movement and its base. The pattern of admired fighters for freedom and liberation becoming a new set of rulers is not limited to examples from Ireland. It’s a world-wide pattern and it stems from the necessity of having a tight chain of command in a military organisation as well as from having a political goal that is not explicitly socialist and egalitarian. If someone is going to run the new state after it falls to a successful armed rebellion, then who will the new politicians and officials be? Those who see themselves as having carried the struggle forward on behalf of (rather than in step with) the people hardly ever then give up the power they have obtained.

Thirdly, it was — and still is — a mistake not to have a strategy for change that involves protestant workers. Throughout the existence of the Northern Irish state there have always been protestant workers opposed to loyalism. Often trade unionists, the ability of these workers to stand up to the sectarian thugs in the community around them has ebbed and flowed over time. Often the pattern is shaped by events in the south. The more catholic and conservative the southern state, the more it provides a warning to protestants not to demand any changes that might lead to Northern Ireland leaving the UK.

Right now, there are some favourable circumstances that make it a little easier for non-sectarian protestant workers to push back against loyalism (e.g. the fact that abortion is available in Ireland as is same-sex marriage. Brexit, too, is an opportunity to hammer home the anti-working class agenda of the DUP, making it a shame that People Before Profit can’t make the most of this, because they put themselves in the pro-Brexit camp). But even throughout the worst of the troubles, that anti-sectarian protestant constituency was present. And it was a constituency that was completely neglected by the IRA. Worse, the more that the military campaign veered off from defending communities under threat to bombing campaigns, the more working class opposition from within unionism was silenced.

With a generation having grown up after the cease fire in the north, it’s a lot easier today to appreciate these points than it would have been in 1970. Even so, when I read about the events of fifty years ago and ask myself the same questions that Arundahti Roy asks about the Indian Maoists, I think the answer is clear. Yes, there can be urgent situations where working class communities have to battle with arms in hand to save themselves but no, that can not be then generalised to being a strategy for socialism or even for more limited changes.

Development Plan for Chivers’ Factory Site, Coolock: Fine Gael backs Greed.

By Councillor John Lyons, Independent Left

Interview between Pat Kenny and myself, for Newstalk, 22 October 2019.

The Fine Gael pro-developer planning system in action: we on Dublin City Council rezoned the old Chivers’ factory site in Coolock from industrial to residential in October 2017 on the advice of the following assessment from DCC’s planners:

‘It is acknowledged that this unit has been vacant for a significant period of time and that the site may not have future potential as an industrial factory type unit. Give the location of the site, particular adjacent to the Santry River and conservation area, and current access off a residential street, a residential redevelopment of the site is considered appropriate in principle.’

Myself and all other North Central area councillors rezoned the land to allow for residential development but we were promised affordable housing and sensible density: 350 affordable units at reasonable heights.

The developer briefed local councillors and held meetings in the local community to inform people of their plans: 350 units at appropriate heights of no more than five storeys.

Fine Gael, however, made two significant changes to the planning system during this time, namely the fast-tracking Strategic Housing Development process which facilitates developers building more than 100 units by-passing the local authority as the planning authority and going straight to An Bord Plenala, which leaves no room for appeal once a planning decision has been reached.

Fine Gael have allowed the former Chiver’s Factory, Coolock, to become the location of ten-floor high rises

The second change to the planning system was the issuing of new departmental guidelines on building heights, released in December 2018 which totally ripped up our City Development Plan regulations on heights and opened the door to developers to lodge planning applications involving outrageous new heights, like the one at the Chivers’ site.

When we were presented with the proposal, the idea was that the developer would build four apartment blocks, none of which would be more than five stories high. Now, the developers, Platinum, have announced that the maximum height of the apartment blocks will be ten stories high. This has come about as a result of the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, removing height restrictions on plans, rendering our efforts to ensure a sustainable and reasonable development meaningless.

The efforts of Independent Left Councillor John Lyons along with others on DCC have been rendered meaningless by the Fine Gael Minister for Housing.

It is a very poor planning decision, allowing blocks of apartments eight and nine storeys high in a low-rise residential area.

Yet the only recourse available to anyone not happy with the decision is a judicial review in the courts, which can only challenge how the decision was reached and can costs tens of thousands of euros.

Fine Gael is quite clearly allowing Dublin to be shaped by the interests of private capital, and to hell with the communities.

Councillor John Lyons of Independent Left calls for original plan for Chivers site to be honoured

A satellite image of the area, marked in red, of the former Chivers factory, now earmarked for a high-rise development by Platinum Land Ltd. Nearby labels show the position of Greencastle Road, Coolock Drive, Northside Retail Park, Cadbury's and Oscar Traynor Road.
Unrestrained greed will create a disproportionate development on the old Chivers’ factory site, with harmful consequences for traffic, public transport and local amenities

On 21 October, I called on Platinum Land Ltd to scrap their development plans at that afternoon’s meeting of Dublin City Council North Central Area Committee in Coolock

I am seeking a full explanation from Andrew Gillick of Platinum Ltd as to why they shifted from their original intention of building 350 apartments in four blocks of varying heights of no more than five storeys to what was disgracefully granted planning permission by An Bord Pleanala, namely 471 apartments in blocks eight and nine storeys high.

The planning application lodged by Platinum Land was an outrageous insult to the local community in Coolock who have been disgracefully deceived by the developers. Over the last year, Platinum met with the local community and elected representatives, promising that their plan for the former factory site would be a sensible one that integrated the new development into the existing wider low-rise residential community in a sustainable way.

What the people in Coolock now face is a proposed development, given the green light by a highly politicised An Bord Pleanala, that will destroy the visual character of Coolock by allowing blocks of flats eight and nine storeys high in an area predominantly of two-storey houses. This will create an eye-sore that will blight the community for decades to come.

Questions will also be asked about the wisdom of squeezing 471 apartments on a site originally earmarked to have just 350 apartments.

It would appear that the greed of the developer has trumped their promises to the local community and they seem to have little regard for the damage their proposed development will inflict on the area.

This is why I am formally requesting that Platinum Land Ltd revert to their original plan of providing 350 apartments on the site.

I will also demand that they consult with the local community at the earliest possible date.

Irish state prefers funding middle class hockey pitches over working class sports facilities

By Councillor John Lyons, Independent Left

Glin Sports Centre during the European schools championship. Family and friends gather to watch to matches.
Glin Sports Centre Coolock, during the European schools boxing championship.

I was in the Glin Sports Centre in Coolock on 11 August to watch the fantastic young boxer from Kilmore, Ava Henry, fight in the final of a European Championship in Georgia.

Ava is an incredibly talented young person, hardworking and dedicated too. She won the silver medal although we all thought she had won the fight.

An amazing achievement for a twelve-year-old, who will only get better. An All Ireland champion boxer who today became a European silver medalist. Fantastic.

The tremendous success generally by Ireland’s young boxers and the enthusiasm and inspiration that brings to their peers is evidence that even modest amounts of state investment in sports goes a long way. What a shame though, that our ‘independents’ in government go along with the way that Fine Gael favour middle and upper-class kids when it comes to these investments.

Remember this?

Wesley hockey pitch
Shane Ross gives €150,000 to a fee-paying school in his constituency

Last year, not only did Shane Ross give Wesley, a fee-paying school in his constituency, €150,000, he did the same for Loreto Beaufort, another elitist school. This at a time when many state schools don’t even have a sports area. How often do we see schoolkids playing on the tarmac of car parks?

Wesley College, by the way, has two resurfaced hockey pitches, along with two cricket pitches, one for soccer, four for rugby, two more basketball courts and for indoor sports: a gymn and a major hall.

As I said at the time of an upsurge in local gangland killings in Coolock: “We need a task-force established that will be responsible for monitoring the work of the various government departments, state agencies and community groups that have a role to play in tackling the many problems faced by people in the area.” And part of that solution is to invest at least as heavily in the facilities for working class kids as the state does for the rich.

Councillor John Lyons on an Independent Left Canvass in Darndale

By Councillor John Lyons, Independent Left

Independent Left were canvassing in Darndale today (31 July 2019). A great community but one faced with a couple of particularly difficult issues.

I’ve promised to work with people in the times ahead to ensure that the community is a safe and peaceful place for everyone living, working, struggling in the area.

Great to see the new fishing club up in the park, a positive end to the canvass.

Check out my video report.

Stand up to Racism: Isolate the Far-Right in Ireland

Racism is a tool used by the far-right to divide us

By Councillor John Lyons, Independent Left

Across most of Europe, far-right parties have a strong presence, with parties like National Rally in France (formerly the Front National), Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy, Vlaams Belang in Belgium, the anti-Islam Freedom party in Holland and Golden Dawn in Greece. In Ireland, despite several attempts to get a racist project off the ground, the far-right have so far faltered. In part, this is because historically the racist agenda in Ireland has been linked to a very conservative Catholic agenda, which is in retreat from the spirit of our recent times.

It would be a mistake, however, for the left to be complacent. It is clear that the fears of a fragile middle class and the misplaced anger of marginalised working class communities could potentially provide a constituency for an Irish far-right movement.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community offer a version of Islam that rejects terrorism and advocates the separation of mosque and state. They own a mosque on the Old Ballybrit Road, Galway and this has been a focus for racist activity for some years. Early on Monday 29 July, an incident took place that demonstrated the existence of people who would organise a far-right party here and what that would mean for Muslims and other minority groups in Ireland. The Iman’s office was broken into and wrecked, with his family photographs and books scattered onto the street. The attackers were careful to take the security equipment.

Smashed window at the Ahmadiyya mosque, Galway

Understandably, this has, according to M.A. Malik, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association of Ireland, terrified the local Muslim community.

Two years ago, on 5 June 2017, Just after eleven p.m., while many of their members were inside for prayer, the windows of the same mosque were smashed in by rocks. This attack followed a spate of anti-Muslim graffiti in the city.

The link behind these attacks was made explicit to the Iman, Ibrahim Noonan, who received an anonymous call three months ago in which two far-right groups operating in Ireland were mentioned (along with the name of Tommy Robinson).

Currently, such sinister figures are relatively isolated and after both attacks, a broad swathe of the local community rallied around the Ahmadiyya Community. Galway Anti-Racism Network is an important force for organising the support that exists for Muslims and asylum seekers. And for those wanting to donate to the mosque, there is currently a charity 5k event that you can support.

Iman Ibrahim Noonan, members of the Ahmadiyya community, Galway Anti-Racism Network and others showing support in 2017

In response to the recent attack, on my Facebook page I said:

Last November a hotel earmarked for those seeking international protection was burnt out in Moville Donegal, another in Rooskey Roscommon last January and now an attack on a mosque in Galway.
Hateful crimes each one of them, and the target in each instance were minorities – refugees and a Muslim community – often attacked by mainstream politicians and the far-right right across the world as the source of their particular society’s ills.
Nothing could be further from the truth but hate never lets facts get in the way.
We must condemn every attack, verbal and physical, we must stand with our sisters and brothers against the forces of division, hate and violence.

It was quite incredible but yet somewhat inevitable how quickly my post yesterday in support of those at the receiving end of anti-immigrant and anti-Islam attacks degenerated into a thread of nonsensical, ‘Look After Our Own First’ crap. Admittedly, it was only a handful of Facebook users but enough to distract from the main message of my original post.

To diminish or dismiss the lived realities of people facing attacks because of the colour of their skin, place of origin or religious faith is a kind of violence that can slowly corrupt a society.

The problems people face in the twenty-first century, in Ireland and elsewhere, in securing decent, affordable housing, having a job that pays well and is secure, getting their kids through school, accessing high quality health care when needed, are problems created by a capitalist economic system that benefits a tiny elite and leaves the rest of us fighting over the scraps.

Focusing your anger at austerity and the gross global inequalities in wealth and income on immigrants or Muslims lets the billionaires and millionaires, and their politician flunkies, off the hook.

We need to unite and fight for a better world for all.

Ireland and Palestine: the Destruction of Palestinian Homes Shows Why We Support the Occupied Territories Bill

By Independent Left Councillor John Lyons

Palestinian children during demonstrations against Palestinian land confiscation.

On Monday 22 July 2019, about a thousand Israeli soldiers and border police entered the village of Sur Baher and set about demolishing buildings in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Wadi al-Hummus. Two families, totalling 17 people, of whom 11 are children, lost their homes.

Ir Amim, is an Israeli NGO that believes there has been an increase in this kind of destruction of homes. Their figures are that Israel demolished 63 Palestinian homes in the first half of 2019, while the same period in 2018 witnessed 37 demolitions.

The EU did make a statement on the matter, making the point that this policy undermined the prospects for a lasting peace.

As I responded on Facebook:

For decades the state of Israel has been violating the human rights of Palestinians and consistently breaching international law as it does yet it has never faced any serious consequences for its illegal actions so its latest act of brutality was never going to be stopped by the EU “urging” Israel to halt the demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. They just went ahead and did what they do best, destroying the homes and lives of ordinary Palestinian families without fear of sanction.

These incidents help explain why Independent Left give wholehearted support to Senator Francis Black and her Occupied Territories Bill.

The bill seeks to prohibit the import and sale of goods, services and natural resources originating in illegal settlements in occupied territories. Such settlements are illegal under both international humanitarian law and domestic Irish law, and result in human rights violations on the ground. Despite this, Ireland and other EU Member States provide continued economic support through trade in settlement goods.

The legislation has been prepared with the support of Trócaire, Christian-Aid, Amnesty International and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), and applies to settlements in occupied territories where there is clear international legal consensus that they violate international law. The clearest current example is the Israeli occupation and expansion of settlements in the Palestinian ‘West Bank’, which have been repeatedly condemned as illegal by the UN, EU, the International Court of Justice and the Irish Government.

Frances Black speaking at the UN on behalf of her proposal to sanction goods, services and natural resources from the Occupied Territories in Palestine.

Stop Water Privatisation: Round Two

By John Lyons

Right2WaterIreland identify ‘excessive usage charges’ as a tool for the privatisation of water

As Right2Water have recently posted, the announcement on 17 July 2019 by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities that excessive usage charges will be imposed on households that waste water is the beginning of a new battle which will see the government attempt to reintroduce the hated water charges in a new form.

Do they really want to go there again? The people have spoken, marched, boycotted, voted, marched and then marched and boycotted some more.

The Irish establishment, the supposed elite group of middle and upper class professionals and politicians, legal minds and media folk, despised the water movement because it was a great movement of the working class, middle and low income people fighting back and winning.

So they are sore, are coming back at it and are determined not to be dictated to on this issue ever again by the “ordinary people”.

They think the sting has gone out of the issue: yes, the political class paid a price in the local and European elections in 2014 and the general election in 2016, but they now feel that they have recovered and to a certain degree they have.

The Greens did well in the recent local and European elections and they favour water charges; the Labour Party did alright for themselves and they are in favour of water charges; Fianna Fail and Fine Gael had good local and European election results and are most certainly in favour of water charges.

Meanwhile the political parties of the Left and Sinn Fein, those that fought hard opposing the water charges, performed very poorly in the recent elections.

So the establishment think that the people have fallen into a slumber, are ripe for a little bit of “water wasting” propaganda, will accept the introduction of a charge for “excessive usage” and will ultimately see as inevitable the re-introduction of water charges.

They think this is their time, an opportune moment in which to begin a new battle to introduce water charges and ultimately privatise our water.

They are mistaken. Being out of touch with working class communities, they think we will be easily deceived as to the true nature of ‘excess usage charges’. Having underestimated the insight and determination of Irish workers, they will lose this battle. And Independent Left looks forward to playing our part in ensuring this.

Tracker Scandal: Bankers Evade Jail Despite Being Thieves

By John Lyons

When you hear, ‘regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland’, think, ‘given license to do as they please.’

The final report from the Central Bank’s Tracker Mortgage Examination  makes grim reading. The tracker scandal reveals yet again the power of Irish bankers, as not one single individual banker will be held responsible for the decisions they made to rip-off their customers. And when finally forced to admit their wrong-doing, their criminal behaviour, they did their best to minimise the amount of compensation they would have to pay out.

And some consumer affairs organisations claim that the report does not go far enough: that there are still hundreds of families who have not be restored to the correct tracker rates.

Will there be any legal consequences for those individuals in the banks who made the decision to rip-off their customers? It appears not.

And the 99 families who lost their homes through no fault of their own? No amount of money can compensate them for the stress and strain they must have endured.

By the end of May, the banks had paid out €683m in compensation. Overwhelmingly the banks involved in robbing their customers are the big five, 98% of those affected were customers of AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC Bank Ireland, Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank.

We are talking about at least 40,100 customer accounts affected. And while it might seem that the banks are now contrite, effectively, they have gotten the taxpayer to recompense the victims of their cynical practices, since the State remains a significant owner of AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB. To the €64 billion bailout bill, we can add most of this one.

When you think about the stress of having a bank chase you for additional money that you never calculated on owing, when you think about the relationships that could not cope and especially when you think about the slick way in which these burdens were imposed, totally without justification, then the payouts are in fact low. This is especially the case for the 99 families whose average recompense was €194,000.

The problem for the banks, post-2008, is that they had made a mistake with tracker mortgages. For once, the deal favoured the customer. But the customer can’t be allowed to win. ‘Choice’ in the marketplace of mortgages is illusory. It is only a matter of minor variation and in all circumstances, as far as the bankers were concerned, they must be able to squeeze the mortgage holder.

So they broke their own contracts and their own rules and by bullying or by sleight of hand, forced thousands of people off their tracker mortgages.

There are so many lessons in this scandal about how Irish capitalism really works, it is hard to know where to start. But the takeaway is surely this, that when we lift the rock, we can see the insects crawling around. The report might not go far enough but it does allow us to see how the financial elite operate. it has exposed a world that we don’t normally get to see and which is one where the drive for profit is dominant, even if that means theft by people who pose as utterly respectable.