Above: Kerz produced this piece to go alongside a recent feature on scandals in the Nardai.
You know that opening scene of Terminator? When Reese comes to – naked in a flash of light, with very little idea where he is? Well, today was a bit like that for us rabblers – we’ve time traveled through the merry season and are now stuck back at our wage slave stations, suffering from food comas and the sudden shock of having free time ripped away from us. Genuinely? We feel like crying.
So, to distract ourselves and make it look like we’re actually working, we huddled together this morning to gawk back at some of the big stories from 2017 – where the apple cart was upset, and the tables were turned.
And some of the stuff you wished didn’t happen but did, and we’re damned if we’re gonna turn a blind eye.
Use the comments section for anything we missed or to get your Nostradamus on for 2018.
1. The End Of The Beginning
Above: Mice whipped this out for what was probably one of our best front covers. Way back in 2012 when we rolled out #rabble4 with the tag “we are rabble, we are pro-choice”.
In 1983, the referendum inserting the Eighth Amendment into the constitution was passed. This campaign was led by hardline conservatives, who feared the buds of liberalisation in the 1970s would eventually extend to abortion. The Catholic hard right was playing to a receptive gallery, and all the main political parties backed holding a referendum. The referendum was passed overwhelmingly, with 67% backing the amendment. Least some Dublin constituencies had the good sense to vote it down.
Fast forward to 2017. This was the year where the end of this regime came into sight. First the Constitutional Convention and then the Oireachtas committee voted to change the constitution. In a most Irish of twists, Fianna Fail, the party who most vocally supported the 1983 amendment, moved the motion that has paved the way for the vote at the Oireachtas committee.
The battle though will be hard fought. Watch out for the young, plausible voices of a modern, shiny hard right in Ireland who will try and present themselves as compassionate heroes, rather than than the incarnates of a Catholic right responsible for one of the most restrive abortion regimes in the world.
The Yes Equality vote has fostered a degree of liberal delira, that the Irish nation has fundamentally broken free from having its head shoved in theocratic shite – perhaps, but it was a narrow enough vote. 12% the other way and we’d be having a very different conversation.
Is there a lesson though in all this? Yeah, no one can afford to sit on their laurels once the referendum is called. It’s gonna require all shoulders to the wheel.
Get out there and make reasoned arguments to people, appeal to their good sense and use the evidence. Get off the bloody internet and talk to people on your street. Change minds!
2. Victory Against The Odds
The courts of injustice gave a much-needed boost last summer when a jury refused to convict Paul Murphy and the Jobstown protesters of the charges of falsely imprisoning Joanie during the water protests. Helped by dodgy cop evidence, a social media campaign (no doubt picked up the jury, let’s be honest) which constantly exposed the real politically-motivated purpose of the trial, and inconsistencies and gaps in the testimony of the accusers, the jury had the good sense to acquit the 13 protestors.
The trial has added a final nail in the coffin of the Labour party, who were again associated with the water charges and austerity they favoured in office. And just this month Jason Lester, the teenager convicted by the Children’s Court of the same charges, finally had his conviction overturned and his name cleared.
Still, it was a campaign hard won, and not without a human cost for those involved. The fact remains that the entire exercise cost €2.5 million.
On a positive note, the bitter complaints of the Irish Times about the role of social media in the trial is evidence that trials like this will never be the same again.
3. The #MeToo Wave
The #MeToo revelations sparked by allegations of sexual assault and harassment against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein made its presence felt on Irish social media too. And while the wave of revelations highlighted the constant, everyday nature of harassment, some high-profile Irish personalities were also exposed as abusers.
Grace Dyas took down the former Gate Director Michael Colgan in a way that would have been completely unthinkable a few years ago. Her blog post on was a lesson in how to conduct a takedown. Precise, detailed and personal, it was instantly devastating to Colgan.
The fact though remains that for many years, the state-funded Gate was run by an abuser and extreme bully, who seemed to be above and beyond any reproach. It’s a shame that it was ever allowed to happen. The Arts Council and other funders, who put you through unimaginable hoops if you ask for the most meagre of a few bob to run a project, funded a theatre described as a “family business” by the Irish Times. The full story of what the Arts Council did and did not know has yet to be told in full.
Still, justice delayed is not quite justice denied as Grace Dyas has emerged as a figure of real respect and esteem. More power to her. And to the 4.7 million Twitter users who have used the #metoo hashtag to out harassment and abuse.
4. The Housing Fightback
Above: Most of the press attention focused on the artists, and a very small number of organisers. However, the real story of Apollo House is and always was the volunteers. Many of them still on the front lines out there.
A year on from Apollo House and things have come full circle. Homelessness figures continue to soar, hitting new records every month, with 3,333 children now growing up in emergency accommodation. While the media set up the story of Apollo as one which ended in disappointment, in actual fact the grassroots networks fighting back against homelessness and slum landlordism have been organizing and working away in the shadows.
2017 opened with Fine Gael’s Rent Pressure Zones and other new regulations coming into effect, it ended with their measures proven to be totally useless with no real bite against unscrupulous pricks.
RTE Investigates opened the nation’s eyes to the cramped Victorian warehousing of people that landlords are now profiteering from. Just walk down an inner city Dublin street and peer at windows and you’ll see the bunk beds stacked.
Just before Christmas a ripe specimen of this scumlord class had his arse served to him, when it was him and not housing activists, who got a High Court injunction, after they succeeded in stopping an illegal eviction. A new website called Slumleaks then leaked dirt on Paul Howard, the landlord in question, and look set to follow that up with more exposes of dodgy pricks.
When the state seems only willing to listen when multinationals wail, you know we are living in grim times. RTE current affair shows get giddy about Eoghan Murphy rolling back on housing regulations with constant air time given to fanciful solutions like shared living for adults, like The Collective in London.
When reports for the council advocating tearing down what social housing remains, you know there’s serious political ground to be made up here.
With a little bit of luck (but mostly effort), we can expect more resistance to evictions in the coming months as the movement builds momentum.
5. The Corbyn effect
Above: Stormzy doing his thing at Glasto. Richard Barbrook was deeply in involved in Jeremy Corbyn’s recent election campaign. Read our interview with him from the last issue here.
Corbyn’s surge as the general election campaign across the water progressed was a loud and clear rejection of the type of managerial corporate democracy that has characterized both sides of the political divide for years across Europe. For a generation that has grown up being told that there is no alternative to austerity, watching the results roll in was a breath of fresh air.
In place of the slickly-presented snake-oil salesmen we’ve grown used to, Jezza’s combination of grandfatherly fondness for jam-making and uncompromising political demands were too much for us to resist.
Buoyed by a viral social media campaign, engagement from a range of celebrity figures, and a massive youth turnout, 40% of Britain’s electorate voted for a radical socialist manifesto. The result made a laughing stock of the ‘realists’ who had cautioned Labour Party members against putting their hopes in Corbyn – who went on to win Labour their biggest surge since the forties.
Even with the Tories managing to cling onto power by going into government with ultra-conservative Norn Irish bigots the DUP, the political landscape in Britain looks permanently changed – just look at the videos of crowds of adoring fans chanting ‘Oooh Jeremy Corbyn’ at Glastonbury and the fawning love shown by MCs like Stormzy and Novelist – reps of a generation previously considered unreachable by politicians.
As May’s hapless government flounders over Brexit, the Absolute Boy looks increasingly like a Prime Minister-in-waiting.
6. Traveller Ethnicity Recognised
Above: A photo by Paul Reynolds of Crossbar Bikes which is part of the Clondalkin Travellers’ Development Group (CTDG).
It’s been a long time coming but this year, after a false start in 2015, the government finally got around to recognizing the Travelling Community as a distinct ethnicity. The country has come a long way from the 1963 report of the Commission on Itinerancy, which called for a “final solution” to the “itinerant problem.”
The cognitive dissonance of it being the leader of a Party that is a direct descendant of the fascist Blueshirts who finally recognized Traveller ethnicity does nothing to take away from this monumental breakthrough in the history of the state.
Nonetheless, there is still huge work to be done in the areas of equality of access to services and housing for the Travelling Community, as well as combating the ugly everyday discrimination faced by Travellers throughout the country – a discrimination that was notoriously clear two years ago when neighbours in Glenamuck banded together to deny temporary accommodation to bereaved relatives of the victims of the Carrickmines fire.
7. Real Drug Reform Comes Closer
Above: Darragh Lynch captures the media hysteria around drugs for a piece from 2012 looking into pill testing and the PMA scare.
If you came of ages in the 90s, you would remember when legalise cannabis campaigns were pretty much a one man show, starring Ming Flanagan. Twenty years on, Ming is flying it over in Europe and Ireland has just had a real progress in the area of a sensible drug policies. You have to think that the campaigns, which were kicked started by the big Legalise Cannabis Ireland marches a few years back, are now beginning to bear fruit.
Big shout out to Vera Twomey, whose long march for medical cannabis treatment for her daughter Ava, won hearts and minds, and gave momentum to People Before Profit’s Gino Kenny, whose bill on the use of medical cannabis was supported by the Government with all the usual delays and hand wringing. 2017 also saw legislation on establishing injection rooms finally becoming law there.
Fingers crossed for full repeal of useless criminalizing drug laws, which target working class youth and causes harassment and heartache to folk who don’t deserve it. And with decent pill testing becoming more common across the pond, we could always change the habit of a lifetime and import a decent, well tested solution to keeping the partying people safe.
When it comes to drugs, we can either have progressive, thought out policies, or we can have the legislative equivalent of your elderly next door neighbour ranting on Joe Duffy about the dangers of drugs.
7. Direct Provision
Above: That mini-documentary put together by Jamie Goldrick from late 2016 looking into the asylum regime.
Resistance to the degrading system of Direct Provision has been going on ever since it was set up as an emergency stop-gap in 1999. This year it looks to have been struck a decisive blow. At the moment Ireland and Lithuania are the only countries in Europe that deny asylum seekers the right to work.
In May, however, the Supreme Court ruled that this was unconstitutional. All eyes are now on the government, to see how they will legislate in practice, with activists calling for asylum seekers to be given full working rights without any limitations.
Resistance hasn’t only been happening in the courts either, with growing campaigns on the streets and in campuses to target those who profit from the system of DP. Students at UCD and Trinity have called for Aramark, the catering company that were paid €5 million by the government last year for operating DP centres, to be kicked off campuses and for students to boycott Aramark-run campus canteens.
Meanwhile MASI (Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland) and the Union of Students of Ireland led pickets outside Dublin trinket shop Avoca, also owned by Aramark, in the run up to Christmas. The companies who run Direct Provision centres are starting to feel the pressure, and the whole profitable system is starting to wobble.
8. The Garda Scandals
Above: Kerz knocked it out of the park with this illustration for a feature on the force in #rabble14.
Jesus, where to start? In #rabble14, we covered some of the worst cop offenders in the realm of dodge and graft and general boogneyness.
By the end of the year, cop commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan was a goner, ex-Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald had resigned from Cabinet, while Noel Waters, who refused to learn any lessons from the early departure of his predecessor Brian Purcell, was gone as Secretary General of the Department of Injustice.
Add those names to Enda Kenny, Alan Shatter, and Maurice McCabe, and that’s the list of people whose careers have been ended, or cut short, by cop scandals in the last two years. Through it all, and despite the best efforts of many, particularly in the department of Justice, Maurice McCabe came through as an absolutely credible, and brave, witness to honesty in a force which seems to lack any.
Not that all Garda whistleblowers are legends. John Wilson, despite a promising start, ended up involved with the hard right, who thankfully, had a terrible year. We won’t be covering them in this piece, but shout out to those who make Ireland a hostile turf for homegrown Nazis and fash.
This year we the shocking treatment of Dara Quigley confirmed all those anecedotes you’ve heard over the years of the force being made up of playground bullies and pathetic Jack the Lads, who can’t empathize with others and if they think they can get away with it, will ridicule and abuse.
Not a single copper facess being admonished over the penalty points scandal. Same with the breathalyser bullshit. These scandals say a lot about the culture of power in Ireland. Despite gangland killings falling this year, it’s part and parcel of the Blueshirt modus operandi to fuel the fears of the populace – and regime media is only too happy to go along with it.
Anyone misfortunate enough to be stuck in front of RTE over the Chrimbo couldn’t have missed the constant shite about crime gangs targeting the rural hinterlands. Jackeen bastards (or worse: “the” travelers) tearing down the motorway Mad Max style to carry out daring raids on the good peoples of the bog.
“More CCTV cameras, ID checks when leaving the M50! Arm the police give the farmers a license to kill!” shout some. It’s a simple mission to encourage us to turn in on ourselves and each other.
There is one organised gang in the land and it seems no one can hold them to account – and that’s the Gardai and cacophony of corruptions that make them up.
9. The Great Bank Robbery
Above: This illustration by Darragh Lynch was our take on the banking bail out from #rabble1.
One of the main goals of national fiscal policy has been to “restore the banks to profitability”. This has led to a situation where the banks have been carte blanche to get a much as possible out of as many customers as possible. And hence the tracker mortgage scandal. A swindle so deep and complicated that most people not directly affected lose interest fairly quickly.
In a nutshell, the tracker scandal involved the following: after the bank crash in 2008, many customers arranged to move off a tracker and onto either a fixed or variable rate. When a large number of customers tried to switch back to their tracker their banks told them that wasn’t possible. Thousands of other customers who had a tracker mortgage were charged a higher rate of interest than they should have been paying.
When the news first broke in, the scandal led to front page reports, big headlines and earnest columns calling for “action”, “accountability” and “fairness”. By the end of the year 33,700 mortgages were revealed to have been caught up in the scandal.
When the news first broke in September, there was outcry, and the heads of each major retail bank were brought to meet the the Minister for Finance. The banks handled it cleverly: breaking the bad news, making various apologies, and then allowing the issue to fall off the front pages before gradually filling us in on the number of mortgages involved.
By the end of the year, AIB for example, released figures to show that the numbers of trackers mortgages affected had increased to 9,402, up from 4,970 in late October.
10. Don’t put on the Blueshirt
Above: This one ended up on our front page for the last issue of 2017. An illustration by Mice that eviscerates our glorious leader. Her best yet?
Last and least it’s the Blueshirt revival. With the polls showing big increases, this was the year where Varadkar (we don’t know him, so it’s not Leo) used a very obliging and compliant media for a charm and smarm offensive.
Whether it was the cynical dole attack ads, the socks, the lattes for the journalists – it was all lapped up. And it worked, with a big Blueshirt poll boost as we enter 2018. The most pathetic part was the pretend “we are standing up to the Brits” nonsense at the end of the year.
Britain has no leverage and few friends in Europe, Ireland is not really a player. But you would be amazed what a bit of nationalist rhetoric can do, and you would be amazed as well at the people, who you would think should know better, who swallow it.
Oh and give our takedown of the new Taoiseach’s career so far from #rabble14 a read while you’re here.
Might give you some ammo against South Dublin liberals.